Edward de Bono, the psychologist and author who introduced the term “lateral thinking” back in 1973, said that “Rightness is what matters in vertical thinking. Richness is what matters in lateral thinking.” Being able to approach a problem from a new angle and think outside the box is in invaluable skill. In this article, I’ll highlight 7 ways that you can facilitate lateral thinking in online training.

How To Facilitate Lateral Thinking In Online Training

Edward de Bono suggested that lateral thinking consisted of four key elements. Individuals must be able to recognize “polarizing ideas” and go in search of different viewpoints. They also have to acknowledge that vertical thinking is not always the best approach. Last, but not least, they must accept that chance is always part of the equation. If learners can master all of these steps, then they have the power to look at problems from an entirely different perspective and overcome any challenge that comes their way. Here are 6 ways that you can encourage your corporate learners to build their lateral thinking skills in online training.

  1. Encourage corporate learners to use online mind mapping tools to create their own mind maps. Mind maps are a great brainstorming tool that allows your corporate learners to problem solve by tapping into their creativity. They start by placing a word, problem, or idea on the center of the online page and then surround it with related ideas, solutions, or words that pop into their heads. After they’ve filled the page they can look at all of their thoughts and reflections in order to view the problem from different angles. More creative learners can take it to the next level by developing pictographs, infographics, and online presentations to map out their thoughts

Recommended tools: Coggle, MindMapple

  1. Make it easier to Learn: Learning does not have to be complicated any more. Complications limit both vertical and lateral thinking as it distracts learner from the subject.  Companies like Adobe has spent years researching how learners can focus more on learning rather than getting impaired with technology.  Solution should simplify this free-flow of ideas to see things from a whole new perspective and takes some of the stress and pressure out of the problem solving process.

Recommended tools: Adobe Captivate Prime LMS, Saba, Blackboard, Moodle


  1. Spark online group discussions. Online group discussions give employees the chance to benefit from the expertise and insights of their peers. Reading about opposing viewpoints is one thing, but actually hearing about them and experiencing them firsthand can be eye-opening. Online discussions also help them to respect the opinions of others and come up with more effective solutions to common challenges. They might learn about a new approach that they’ve never considered, or discover more about the issues that underlie the problem. Video conferencing and web chat tools are great for this purpose.
  1. Gamification: Many organizations strive to create a supportive online learning culture, but what if you took that one step further by fostering a curious online community of learners who have a constant thirst for knowledge? Curiosity is the driving force behind lateral thinking. Without it, learners simply wouldn’t have the motivation to seek out new and innovative solutions. They must be able to explore the topic, to see its inner workings and question every aspect of the idea. Invite your employees to be inquisitive and challenge everything that they know. Instead of just learning a task or skill, encourage them to question why they must learn it and how it will benefit them in the workplace. Creating blogs and social media groups is also a great way to cultivate a curious online learning culture, as it gives employees the power to share their thoughts and ideas in a public forum.

Recommended tools: Adobe Captivate Prime LMS,  Axonify

  1. Pose thought-provoking questions. Asking the right question can help your corporate learners challenge their assumptions and rethink their core beliefs. Before you begin your next online training course prepare a series of thought-provoking questions to pose to your employees. Encourage them to question their current opinions and reflect on their underlying values. Just make sure that you don’t offend them in the process. Steer clear of questions that may be too personal or deal with topics that are “off-limits”, such as their cultural beliefs. You can also ask questions based on their responses. For example, when a learner answers a question you might ask them why they hold this opinion or if they have any evidence to support their claim.
  1. Think outside the box. This is actually an offshoot of reverse engineering, and it involves both the solution and the problem. Instead of accepting the solution that you’ve set forth, ask your corporate learners to come up with a number of different solutions to the problem. This is one of the most effective ways to facilitate lateral thinking in online training, as they must avoid the most obvious answer and formulate new and inventive solutions. Taking the road less traveled also increase employee engagement and motivation, thanks to the fact that corporate learners must take a fresh approach and steer clear of the status quo.

Τhe amazing thing about lateral thinking is that corporate learners can apply it in all aspects of their lives. It’s the gift that just keeps on giving. So, use these  6 tips to facilitate lateral thinking in your online training course and let your employees reap the rewards.

Find out how Adobe learning solution help foster learning culture.