Parallel Thinking

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The Greek gang of three, early in their career. From left, Plato[1], "young scholar"[2], and Aristotle[3].

Parallel thinking is a term liberally stolen by Edward de Bono.[4]Parallel Thinking is described as a constructive alternative to "arguing", debate and is used in de Bono's Ministry of Silly Hats method. It is also considered an alternative to the GG3 (Greek gang of three) approach.[5]

In general parallel thinking is a further development of the Lateral Thinking processes. In short it focuses on what isn't there, rather than what is. It is one of the major elements in mastering the Jedi mind trick. You don't try and bend the spoon with your mind, that's impossible. Instead... only try to realise the truth, there is no spoon. Then you'll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.

For those obsessed with so-called-experts, Wikipedia has an article about:
Parallel thinking.


An illustration of divergent thought patterns.

Parallel Thinking is defined as a thinking process where focus is split in specific directions. As such it isn't so much "Parallel" as "divergent." As Parallel line go in the same direction (although not at the same velocity[6]), Divergent lines go in two different directions, like a fork in the road. In fact the entire concept is extremely poorly named, and should go back to the drawing board.

When done in a group it effectively avoids the consequences of the adversarial approach, which is a balanced weighing of pro's and cons, an often more logical approach[7]

Crucial to the method is that the process is done in a disciplined manner. Unfortunately as this does not happen in real life as a regular occurrence, this method is looked as as an ideal rather than a realistic practise, and is often abandoned for the more common paths of structured debate or the other de Bono method.

de Bono on Parallel thinking[edit]

Cquote1.png An individual thinking alone will come to an argeement
A group thinking together will come to an argument. Unless of course the individual has Multiple Personality Disorder, in which case they would be in agreement at any time there was only one personality driving the bus, so to speak, but if there were multiple people driving the bus then there would be an argument. And given that in someone with Multiple Personality Disorder I - what?

Sorry, apparently it's now called Dissociative Identity Disorder. Bloody political correctness. How is a genius like me supposed to get any decent thinking done when the terms that I use are changing on me before I even know it

So where was I? Oh yes. And given that somebody with Dissociative Identity Disorder has two distinct states - that being a single personality in one body or multiple personalities in one body -

I wonder if you can have a single personality in multiple bodies. If that's the case then is explains Paris Hilton, Heidi Pratt, Nicole Ritchie and Lady Gaga. Hmmm, pop culture references. No, that really doesn;'t suit me, I feel dirty now.

Anyway, given that somebody with Dissociative Identity Disorder has two different states, like a light bulb being either on or off, or somebody being pregnant or not pregnant, or Schrödinger's cat being either alive or dead, then that means at any given time there is the possibility of them - the individual with Dissociative Identity Disorder, not the cat or the pregnant nun - being either an agreement or an argument.

Nun? Did I say Nun? Sorry, Freudian slip there. No, I've never gotten a nun pregnant before, what an absurd idea.

It was a pregnancy scare, nothing more.

Actually that's a really interesting point. All this death and celibacy and pregnancy and Schrödinger just made me think of something. The population can be broken into two distinct groups, men and women, and only women can give birth, which means that there's only a 50% chance of any random sample of humanity being pregnant at any time, right? But not every woman is pregnant all the time, so let me think.

Okay, fifty-fifty of being a woman, fifty-fifty being alive... celibate... in child bearing years... sexually active... fertile... okay, so that's two to the power of six inverted...

Oh my word, there's a 1.56% chance that I might be pregnant. Quick, get me a stick to pee on!


de Bono is well known for having the unique ability to be able to parallel think without anybody else in the room.


See also[edit]


  1. Best know for his work in this movie, Plato became somewhat neglected after being advised that he was no longer a planet.
  2. Uncredited in almost all that he did, he later went on to do some of his finest work with Guns N' Roses.
  3. With the most successful latter career, he went on to do some of his finest work in "Independence Day"
  4. Edward De Bono, Parallel thinking: Thinking Without Knocking Over the Cones, 1994 ISBN 0-MILL1ION-0 4.1
  5. Ibid. What, you think I was going to read more than one book?.
  6. Because they are lines, which is a 2 dimensional shape not containing any mass, and therefore cannot be said to have any speed at all as it does not move in three dimensional space
  7. But as Prostitution and Confidence Trickery is illegal in many parts of the world, not as often used.


4.1 A bunch of other people also wrote other books on this idea as well, in what is known as parallel marketing4.11. What you do is you take an idea that has been successful and sold well, and then re-written it in your own words, and published it as though it were something new and exciting. Kind of like Digimon was to Pokemon, GoBots to Transformers, and the Gutenburg Press was to Bi Sheng. Yes, that is an historical reference, but I'm sure it mentions the Gobots in Wikipedia.

Toenail notes[edit]

4.11 This is also what is referred to as Thinking outside the box. That is also related to this and to lateral thought. It's almost as though the three concepts were invented by the same person.
Spork.jpg This page was originally Parallel Marketed4.1 from Wikipedia and yet somehow has about twice as much content.