Lateral Thinking Certificate (LTC-A) – Lesson #10 – The Search for Alternatives

Today’s lesson is the last in this advanced series of lessons on applied lateral thinking — skills for using the PFC for reappraisal and creating value.

Logical thinking is vertical thinking, digging the same hole deeper in order to get a more correct hole. The right hole. The search for perfection. We need vertical thinking and we are already very good at it. Most of Western education is based on logical, step-by-step, vertical thinking. It is useful but it is not enough.

Lateral thinking is escaping from the hole in order to dig a hole somewhere else, perhaps sideways. The search for more alternatives, for reappraisal, for new possibilities and extra choices. We need much more lateral thinking because lateral thinking creates value.

Flashback to 1979

In 1980 I completed the world’s first PhD in Lateral Thinking conducting an idea-generation experiment I designed with 26 hospitals in New York. My project included a 30-day campaign in which 40,000+ hospital employees generated 33,000+ bvs ideas to the immediate value of over USD$10 million (1979 dollars). Employees were taught how to think up BAD ideas, ideas that could save the hospitals a Buck-A-Day (BAD). It was the first time in history that 26 NYC hospitals had ever co-operated in any enterprise. The x10 results were astounding and became national news – New York Times, Wall Street Journal and network news.

The New York Times, Tuesday March 13, 1979

Alternatives’ with Edward de Bono

My PhD supervisor was Dr Edward de Bono, the Cambridge Professor of Investigative Medicine, who originally coined the term ‘lateral thinking’.

For today’s lesson we’ll go back in history to 1982 when Edward recorded a BBC series on lateral thinking and here is his lesson on “Alternatives”. The total lesson is 24 minutes divided into three clips: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. I think you’ll enjoy Edward’s excellent presentation:

• Part 1 of 3


• Part 2 of 3


Part 3 of 3

DFQ #10: In around 25 words, what was the most important idea you have taken away from this last lesson?

67 thoughts on “Lateral Thinking Certificate (LTC-A) – Lesson #10 – The Search for Alternatives

  1. Alternatives can be in the causes as well as in the courses of action. Looking at the causes or explanations for perspectives might throw up alternate courses of action which a little extra effort can produce, thus providing you with a richer set of alternatives to choose from.

  2. In order to make the best possible choice we need to increase the number of alternatives we have. The fact that we have made a choice doesn’t mean we stop looking for alternatives to improve.

  3. Spending additional energy on finding more explanations or courses of action can be more beneficial than devoting the majority of time on making a decision between a smaller set.

  4. A little extra thought can go a long way. By considering explanations and actions before acting, energy/money/time can be conserved and the results can be improved.

  5. Consider possible alternatives. By considering possibilities, it will allow you to know how many there may be and allow you to consider which are better.

  6. If you ask others to contribute ideas there will be a lot more possibilities to consider. You don’t have to come up with all the BVS yourself.

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