Edward de Bono is generally credited with introducing the concept of lateral thinking in 1967 and then in a book, Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step (1970).
Vertical Thinking is what Aristotle has in mind in On Rhetoric when discussing what are generally referred to as the four levels of discourse. Long ago, I devised an acronym, EDNA, one that refers to Exposition (explain), Description (make vivid), Narration (story with plot or sequence), and Argumentation (convince). Vertical thinking still has substantial merit but de Bono suggests that we also consider Radical Thinking, a process by which to solve problems through an indirect and creative approach, using reasoning that is not immediately obvious and involving ideas that may not be obtainable by using only traditional (i.e. vertical) step-by-step logic.
As de Bono explains, “Lateral thinking is concerned with the generation of new ideas. There is a curious notion that new ideas have to do with technical invention. This is a very minor aspect of the matter. New ideas are the stuff of change and progress in every field from science to art, from politics, to personal happiness. Lateral thinking is also concerned with breaking out of the concept of old ideas. This leads to changes in attitude and approach; to look in a different way at things which have always been looked at in the same way. Liberation from old ideas and the stimulation of new ones are twin aspects of lateral thinking.”
Edward de Bono is regarded as the leading international authority in the field of conceptual thinking and also the direct teaching of thinking as a skill. He originated the concept of “lateral thinking,” which is now officially recognized in the Oxford English Dictionary — and which contributed to the success of the 1984 Olympic Games. He was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford and has held faculty appointments at the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, London, and Harvard.
Six Thinking Hats: An Essential Approach to Business Management (1999) is another of my personal favorites among his 27 books.
To learn more about him and his work, please click here.