What is Parallel Thinking?

Parallel Thinking is a co-operative and co-ordinated thinking approach. The Six Thinking Hats method is one simple and practical example of carrying out parallel thinking (PT) described first by Edward de Bono in his book of the same name.

“Six Thinking Hats, a thinking skills training course from Edward de Bono, teaches parallel thinking as an alternative to argument. Parallel Thinking guides thought processes in one direction at a time so we can effectively analyze issues, generate new ideas, and make better decisions. Six Thinking Hats helps put our opinions and egos aside so we can focus on a way forward, without argument.” – Courtesy of The De Bono Group

With the traditional argument or adversarial thinking (established by Socrates, Plato and Aristotle), each side takes a different position and then looks to debate or argue their point with the other side. With parallel thinking all parties are thinking in parallel, i.e.: in the same direction. The direction itself can be changed in order to give a full scan of the situation. Using the Six Thinking Hats is a great way of focusing this direction. But the key to successfully utilizing this method is each thinker must always be thinking in parallel with all the other thinkers.

De Bono explains:

“Revolutionary Nature of Parallel Thinking – The Need to Change Thinking Behavior

We have developed many excellent thinking tools for argument and analysis. Our information technology methods are constantly improving. But we have developed few tools to deal with our ordinary everyday thinking-the sort of thinking we do in conversations and meetings.

In fact, our traditional thinking methods have not changed for centuries. While these methods were powerful in dealing with a relatively stable world (where ideas and concepts tended to live longer than people), they are no longer adequate to deal with the rapidly changing world of today where new concepts and ideas are urgently needed. “Our traditional thinking methods . . . are no longer adequate to deal with the rapidly changing world of today . . .” – Edward de Bono


“Parallel thinking is a term coined and implemented by Edward de Bono.[1][2] Parallel thinking is described as a constructive alternative to “adversarial thinking”, debate and in general the approach the GG3 (Greek gang of three) has been known to advocate.[3] In general parallel thinking is a further development of the well known lateral thinking processes, focusing even more on explorations—looking for what can be rather than for what is.”

“Parallel thinking is defined as a thinking process where focus is split in specific directions. When done in a group it effectively avoids the consequences of the adversarial approach (as used in courts).
In adversarial debate, the objective is to prove or disprove statements put forward by the parties (normally two). This is also known as the dialectic approach. In Parallel Thinking, practitioners put forward as many statements as possible in several (preferably more than two) parallel tracks. This leads to exploration of a subject where all participants can contribute, in parallel, with knowledge, facts, feelings, etc.
Crucial to the method is that the process is done in a disciplined manner, and that all participants play along and contribute in parallel. Thus each participant must stick to the specific track.” – Wikipedia