Vertical Thinking

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 business strategy that involves approaching a problem from a different direction. The strategy attempts to remove traditionally formulaic and routine approaches to problem-solving by advocating creative thinking, therefore finding unconventional ways to solve a known problem. This sort of non-linear approach to problem-solving, can at times, create a big impact.

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 Six Thinking Hats model was created by psychologist Edward de Bono in 1986, who noted that personality type was a key driver of how people approached problem-solving. For example, optimists view situations differently from pessimists. Analytical individuals may generate ideas that a more emotional person would not, and vice versa.

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.

Key takeaways:

  • 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

Connected Business Frameworks

First-principles thinking – sometimes called reasoning from first principles – is used to reverse-engineer complex problems and encourage creativity. It involves breaking down problems into basic elements and reassembling them from the ground up. Elon Musk is among the strongest proponents of this way of thinking.
The ladder of inference is a conscious or subconscious thinking process where an individual moves from a fact to a decision or action. The ladder of inference was created by academic Chris Argyris to illustrate how people form and then use mental models to make decisions.
The Six Thinking Hats model was created by psychologist Edward de Bono in 1986, who noted that personality type was a key driver of how people approached problem-solving. For example, optimists view situations differently from pessimists. Analytical individuals may generate ideas that a more emotional person would not, and vice versa.
Second-order thinking is a means of assessing the implications of our decisions by considering future consequences. Second-order thinking is a mental model that considers all future possibilities. It encourages individuals to think outside of the box so that they can prepare for every and eventuality. It also discourages the tendency for individuals to default to the most obvious choice.
Moonshot thinking is an approach to innovation, and it can be applied to business or any other discipline where you target at least 10X goals. That shifts the mindset, and it empowers a team of people to look for unconventional solutions, thus starting from first principles, by leveraging on fast-paced experimentation.
Tim Brown, Executive Chair of IDEO, defined design thinking as “a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” Therefore, desirability, feasibility, and viability are balanced to solve critical problems.
The Pareto Analysis is a statistical analysis used in business decision making that identifies a certain number of input factors that have the greatest impact on income. It is based on the similarly named Pareto Principle, which states that 80% of the effect of something can be attributed to just 20% of the drivers.

Other related business frameworks:

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