Edward de Bono

Maltese physician

Edward Charles Francis Publius de Bono (19 May 1933, in Malta9 June 2021) was a British physician, author, inventor, and consultant. He was most famous as the originator of the term lateral thinking (structured creativity) and a leading proponent of the deliberate teaching of thinking in schools.

Rightness is what matters in vertical thinking. Richness is what matters in lateral thinking.


  • Unhappiness is best defined as the difference between our talents and our expectations.
    • Quoted in Observer (London, 12 June 1977)
  • Humour is by far the most significant activity of the human brain.
    • Daily Mail (London, 29 January 1990)
  • Studies have shown that 90% of error in thinking is due to error in perception. If you can change your perception, you can change your emotion and this can lead to new ideas.
    • Teaching Thinking (1991)
  • Most executives, many scientists, and almost all business school graduates believe that if you analyze data, this will give you new ideas. Unfortunately, this belief is totally wrong. The mind can only see what it is prepared to see.
    • Serious Creativity: Using the Power of Lateral Thinking to Create New Ideas (1992)
  • I think there is a danger with young people of being dependent in the sense that they don't acquire any identity or self-image of themselves as thinkers. They just go and look it up or they just chat with someone. In other words, relying on something rather than saying: "Okay, I've got the information, how do I create value from it?"

Lateral Thinking : Creativity Step by Step (1970)Edit

Lateral Thinking : Creativity Step by Step, partly online
  • At school the emphasis has traditionally always been on vertical thinking which is effective but incomplete. This selective type of thinking needs to be supplemented with the generative qualities of creative thinking. This is beginning to happen in some schools but even so creativity is usually treated as something desirable which is to be brought about by vague exhortation. There is no deliberate and practical procedure for bringing it about.
    • p. 5; Preface
  • Lateral thinking... is the process of using information to bring about creativity and insight restructuring. Lateral thinking can be learned, practised and used. It is possible to acquire skill in it just as it is possible to acquire skill in mathematics.
    • p. 5; Preface
  • Lateral thinking is closely related to insight, creativity and humour. All four processes have the same basis. But whereas insight, creativity and humour can only be prayed for, lateral thinking is a more deliberate process. It is as definite a way of using the mind as logical thinking — but a very different way.
    • p. 6; First paragraph of the introduction
  • You cannot dig a hole in a different place by digging the same hole deeper.
    • p. 8
  • Rightness is what matters in vertical thinking. Richness is what matters in lateral thinking. Vertical thinking selects a pathway by excluding other pathways. Lateral thinking does not select but seeks to open up other pathways. With vertical thinking one selects the most promising approach to a problem, the best way of looking at a situation. With lateral thinking one generates as many alternative approaches as one can.
    • p. 29
  • With vertical thinking one may look for different approaches until one finds a promising one. With lateral thinking one goes on generating as many approaches as one can even after one has found a promising one. With vertical thinking one is trying to select the best approach but with lateral thinking one is generating different approaches for the sake of generating them.
    • p. 29
  • Vertical thinking is selection by exclusion. One works within a frame of reference and throws out what is not relevant. With lateral thinking one realizes that a pattern cannot be restructured from within itself but only as the result of some outside influence. So one welcomes outside influences for their provocative action. The more irrelevant such influences are the more chance there is of altering the established pattern. To look only for things that are relevant means perpetuating the current pattern.
    • p. 32, as cited in 1994 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings (1994), p. 165
  • A flock of sheep was moving slowly down a country lane which was bounded by high banks. A motorist in a hurry came up behind the flock and urged the shepherd to move his sheep to the side so that the car could drive through. The shepherd refused since he could not be sure of keeping all the sheep out of the way of the car in such a narrow lane. Instead he reversed the situation. He told the car to stop and then he quietly turned the flock round and drove it back past the stationary car.
    • p. 100; cited in (1989) Effective Nursing Leadership: A Practical Guide (1989), by Virginia K. Baillie et al, p. 244
  • The concept of logical thinking is selection and this is brought about by the processes of acceptance and rejection. Rejection is the basis of logical thinking.
    • p. 159
  • The rejection process is incorporated in the concept of the negative. The negative is a judgement device. It is the means whereby one rejects certain arrangements of information. The negative is used to carry out judgement and to indicate rejection. The concept of the negative is crystallized into a definite language tool. This language tool consists of the words no and not. Once one learns the function and use of these words one has learned how to use logical thinking. The whole concept of logical thinking is concentrated in the use of this language tool. Logic could be said to be the management of NO.
    • p. 159
  • The concept of lateral thinking is insight restructuring and this is brought about through the rearrangement of information. Rearrangement is the basis of lateral thinking and rearrangement means escape from the rigid patterns established by experience. The rearrangement process is incorporated in the concept of the (re) laxative. The laxative is a rearranging device. It is the means whereby one can escape from established patterns and create new ones. The laxative allows the arrangement of information in new ways from which new patterns can arise. The concept of the laxative is crystallized into a definite language tool. This language tool is PO. Once one learns the function and use of PO one has learned how to use lateral thinking. The whole concept of lateral thinking is concentrated in the use of this language tool. Lateral thinking could be said to be the management of PO just as logical thinking is the management of NO.
    • p. 159
  • Design is really a special case of problem solving. One wants to bring about a desired state of affairs. Occasionally one wants to remedy some fault but more usually one wants to bring about something new. For that reason design is more open ended than problem solving. It requires more creativity. It is not so much a matter of linking up a clearly defined objective with a clearly defined starting position (as in problem solving) but more a matter of starting out from a general position in the direction of a general objective
    • p. 198; Cited in: Eddie Norman, Urry (1995) Advanced design and technology. p. 65-66

Iraq? They just need to think it through (2007)Edit

Quotes of de Bono from |title = "Edward de Bono: 'Iraq? They just need to think it through'" by Angela Balakrishnan in The Guardian (27 April 2007)
  • What happened was, 2,400 years ago, the Greek Gang of Three, by whom I mean Aristotle, Plato and Socrates, started to think based on analysis, judgment and knowledge. At the same time, church people, who ran the schools and universities, wanted logic to prove the heretics wrong. As a result, design and perceptual thinking was never developed. People assumed philosophers were doing it and so they blocked anyone else from doing it. But philosophers were not. Philosophers may look out at the world from a stained-glass window, but after a while they stop looking at the world and start looking at the stained glass.
  • Creative thinking — in terms of idea creativity — is not a mystical talent. It is a skill that can be practised and nurtured. You can never tell how a policy has been reached just by looking at the end result. Some people who have achieved a huge amount do not come across as impressive when you speak to them.
  • There isn't just one point; it takes time to learn. You don't have to be intelligent, but I think you have to be open to possibilities and willing to explore. The only stupid people are those who are arrogant and closed off.

Quotes about Edward de BonoEdit

  • Edward de Bono is the Cambridge academic who is making a lot of money out of peddling his ideas about "lateral thinking" to managers, bureaucrats and anyone else who will pay to listen. Whether the concept of lateral thinking is pure hokum or a precious revelation is a matter of some controversy. Either way, de Bono has won himself a small niche in communications history as the star of Britain's first complete, video-cassette-oriented film series, "Organised creativity and lateral thinking".
    • Timothy Johnson, in "Science and the paymasters: Videocasettes: What happened", New Scientist Vol. 52, No. 774, (16 December 1971), p. 177
  • De Bono’s research concluded that the brain is indeed a self-organizing system that routinely interprets inputs into patterns. It is not then inherently designed for creativity. However, if certain lateral thinking tools are applied, the brain can be encouraged or trained to become more creative.
    • J. Bailey, in "Profile lateral thinking: Edward De Bono" in Engineering Management Journal, 17(5) (2007), p. 46

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