Book Review - Lateral Thinking: A Textbook of Creativity

Book Review – Lateral Thinking: A Textbook of Creativity

Book Review - Lateral Thinking: A Textbook of Creativity

Creativity is this funny umbrella term that covers (see the pun) broad range of activities behind which a common thread runs, going by the name of problem solving.

A problem is simply the difference between what one has and what one wants.

Above definition (from the”Lateral Thinking” by Edward De Bono) implies desire for something, which further implies desire for a solution towards fulfilling it. Were there no problems nothing would be desirable (and vice versa) and human condition as we know it would implode upon such proposition. Luckily for us problems exists and we can go on living and solving them.

De Bono’s book is an in-depth resource teaching the often neglected skill of creative attitude of the mind – lateral thinking. The way our mind gathers and processes information causes it to develop certain inertia that makes it perpetuate and reinforce existing patterns. As we grow from the infancy of Tabula Rasa our mind accumulates heaps of patterns that form its landscape, map and traffic routes. Because the nature of accumulation is linear in terms of acquisition of information we tend to build new patterns on top and out of existing ones. Some patterns may have been relevant, but became outmoded, yet they won’t simply remove themselves from our minds. They need to be re-arranged and this is where lateral thinking comes to our aid. It’s the “think outside the box” magic wand. It allows us to stir the existing information within patterns to come up with replacements that are improved exponentially rather than incrementally. It’s “both, an attitude and a method of using information.”

Liberation from old ideas and the stimulation of new ones are twin aspects of lateral thinking. (…) new ideas include new ways of doing things, new ways of looking at things, new ways of organising things, new ways of presenting things, new ideas about ideas.

What’s your problem? What isn’t your problem? Lateral thinking can help with both. Even if you think you don’t have a problem you can be sure there are ways to improve your existing structure of mind within any domain by applying some of the methods that are part of the creative attitude.

The book contains several chapters showcasing where and how lateral thinking can be used. Yet, as the author states “One has to develop some skill in the actual use of this type of thinking. Such skill can only develop if one has enough practice. Such practice ought not to wait formal organisation but it often does.” The book has been prepared as a self-study (or a group study) tool that can, and should, be returned to over a course of a long period of time. It comes with a comprehensive introduction into the mechanism of the mind and comparison between vertical and lateral thinking. Both ways of thought are not exclusive and should be used complimentary, lateral for generating ideas and approaches and vertical for developing them.

Author discusses and elaborates upon several exemplary techniques that bring us closer toward getting a feel of what lateral thinking is all about. Materials for practice and multiple examples are shown.

Lateral thinking is a habit of the mind. It is not settling for easiest or the most apparent solution to a problem. It’s a lock pick to becoming unstuck from logical solutions. It also forces us to unveil latent supplies of our imagination that reinforces our ability to generate better results.

It may be necessary to be on top of the mountain in order to find the best way up.

And while there will always be a logical explanation to the way the path goes up the mountain it may require a leap of imagination to see ourselves on top before we physically discover it. It’s well worth investing the time to develop this habit of mind, whether we are in the “creative” field or not.  This book is going to be your lifetime companion for developing art of creative problem solving. It’s the foundation of creativity and, as such, should be considered seriously.

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