Parallel thinking

Have you noticed that a standard conversation/discussion/debate usually focuses on supporting or disproving points that are being discussed? There are two tracks: you either support it, or you’re against it. This is called adversarial thinking.


But another way such discussions can be approached, when there are more than two views, when the focus is split in different directions. There are multiple, parallel tracks of thought presented at the same time, for the same topic. This is called parallel thinking.


Isn’t this a wonderful concept, when we can discuss things in a way where each person presents their views in parallel to what another person thinks, without fighting and arguing? Where all those tracks can be objectively explored and analyzed? This wonderful way was described by Edward de Bono, the father of creativity, and is an extension to his concept of lateral thinking (read more about lateral thinking on this blog, just click here). Here is how he described it: in traditional (adversarial) thinking, A and B are in conflict. Each side seeks to criticize the other point of view. Parallel thinking allows a wider but objective approach. Both A and B explore all sides of an issue. Adversarial confrontation (A vs B) is replaced by a cooperative exploration of the subject (A+B).


De Bono also developed an exercise that helps to achieve parallel thinking in group discussion without losing sight of the issue at hand – Six Thinking Hats. You can read more about Six Thinking Hats on this blog, just click here; in a nutshell, what it does is it gives every person a hat that represents a certain approach (creativity, negativity, facts, etc). Everyone, or the entire groups, have the possibility to look at the issue from a different perspective, that is not linked to their own. It supports creativity, idea generation, logical discussion, and collaboration, and eliminates fights and disagreements.



All in all, you don’t have to use the hats – you can develop your own way to encourage your team to change perspectives and not be stuck. Some benefits of learning parallel thinking, and making it your habits, include:


  • Objectivity towards issues.
  • Cross-cultural collaboration.
  • Fewer conflicts, more clear discussion.
  • Enhances the quality of thinking.
  • Enhances problem-solving skills.


If you are interested in the origins of parallel thinking, you can read a short explanation on Edward de Bono’s website, or dive much deeper via his book on the subject. God luck!