Lateral thinking is a term coined by Edward De Bono to characterize the generation of alternative ideas, as opposed to vertical thinking, which generates ideas based on logic and stepwise refinements. Another way to explain lateral thinking in a much common way is “thinking out of the box.”
Often finding the best solution to a problem requires a creative move to go away from the existing solution and start with a new angle. This is were lateral thinking can help.
As a reminder of the power of lateral thinking, let us take an egg and a spoon. You are doing a brunch. How do you provide assistance to help cut the egg?
With vertical thinking you might come up with this solution:
With lateral thinking, maybe with this one:
I was absolutely amazed the first time I saw this device in action. The cut is perfect. Also, I would probably never have come to this solution, no matter how long I stared at my egg.
Each time I discuss a design issue I remember my last brunch and try to take some distance with the situation to go back to the root of the problem to solve and ask: could we do this completely differently?
Sometimes the best way to cut an egg is to not cut it actually.