Vertical thinking, on the other hand, is a problem-solving approach that favors a selective, analytical, structured, and sequential mindset. The focus of vertical thinking is to arrive at a reasoned, defined solution.
Understanding lateral thinking
Lateral thinking is a creative approach to problem-solving that endeavors to break down traditional notions of vertical or conditioned thinking.
Practitioners tackle problems with reasoning that is either disruptive or not immediately obvious.
These individuals are the classic “out of the box” thinkers who use indirect methods to see problems from multiple perspectives and discover innovative solutions.
Lateral thinking is often associated with brainstorming and by extension, writer and philosopher Edward de Bono who noted that “You cannot dig a hole in a different place by digging the same hole deeper.”
The six thinking hats brainstorming method was first proposed by de Bono in his 1971 book Lateral Thinking for Management.
The method encourages brainstorming teams to wear six colored hats with each individual adopting a specific personality whose unique perspective challenges ideas and stimulates discussion.
Understanding vertical thinking
Unfortunately, vertical thinking is how most people view the world. Vertical thinkers analyze, process, and utilize information in a sequential, patterned, or direct way to arrive at a solution.
Since each step must be relevant to the previous step before the individual can move forward, vertical thinking does not lend itself to creativity or experimentation.
Instead, decisions are made based on the best available knowledge.
Vertical thinking also places more importance on the past in determining how a current situation may have occurred or a future situation may be mitigated.
- Lateral thinking is the process of developing many creative solutions to problems without casting judgment on them. Vertical thinking is more selective and structured and uses reason to arrive at a solution.
- Lateral thinkers focus on overlooked aspects of a problem, while vertical thinkers tend to look to the past to decide how to proceed in the present or the future. Lateral thinkers are also comfortable breaking free from the status quo with vertical thinkers more likely to follow sequential steps and rely on the available knowledge.
- Despite the distinctions between the two thinking methods, note that neither should be used in isolation all of the time. In essence, vertical thinking helps determine whether any of the numerous ideas generated from lateral thinking are valid or viable.
Read Next: Lateral Thinking
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