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Vertical thinking

Vertical thinking

Vertical thinking is a type of approach that is usually selective, analytical, and sequential. It could be said that it is the opposite of lateral thinking . [1] The use of insight and risk, and the use of insight and unconscious processes. This type of thinking is an improbable one. Vertical thinkers prefer to rely on external data and facts in order to avoid failure or counterfactual thinking.[2] [ page needed ]

Origin of the term

The concept of “vertical thinking” as a method of solving problems was first introduced by Edward de Bono and can be traced back to his publication of Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step in the Year 1970. [3] In the book, the concept of vertical thinking can be seen with many parallels with that of ” critical thinking “. De bono explains in his text that the main distinction between the two concepts is the fact that critical thinking only involves thinking rationally, the vertical thinking requires the individual to apply the modus in a solution. [4]


“Vertical thinking is selection by exclusion.” One works within a frame of reference and throws out what is not relevant. Bono [5]

Similar to the concepts of convergent thinking, the intention of vertical thinking is to derive a single compelling answer to a problem. Vertical thinking is most applicable in scenarios where the answer is already existing and needs to be elucidated through sequential means. In this regard, the answer is most often considered to be “the most correct” when considering the information available to the individual. [6] With regards to the interpretation of Bono, individuals are not obligated to adhere to a single method of thinking rather than form solutions through the synthesis of both. Thinking of different methods of thinking, the method of thinking, is the most appropriate method of thinking.[5]

Practical application

The utilitarian applications of almost every method of thinking can be seen as seemingly endless as However, the creation of vertical thinking is meant to be a tool for critical thinking in individuals from a young age. Though not as Widely renown as Six Thinking Hats , the works of Bono in this case can again be seen as a tool to assist teachers in setting academic year. Bono saw it as vital for the Individuals categorized under the Developing age to acknowledge the concept of critical thinking. [7] However, this was not meant to deter the use of creativity in problem solving, but rather endorse a balance of both. The works of Bono were further broadened byPaul Sloane who has developed the situation puzzle. [8]

The situation is a series of puzzles where every question has a number of possible answers. Children playing the game are rewarded for the most correct answer, but also for identifying other issues that were a possibility. Through this method, both lateral and vertical thinking are more likely than others to assess the type of “thinker” the child bests fits. [9] The discernment and classification of a child’s thinking is extremely valuable for teachers when it comes to development. Due to this, the practical application of the concepts derived from Bono has an overwhelming progressive influence in the academic setting.

Introduction of these concepts to a child are said to be most useful from the ages 4 onward. When considering existing trends in cognitive development, it is the age of 4 that individuals begin to realize that they can not be true. [10]This is the world where the ability to acquire knowledge through induction occurs for the child. Thus, the ability to think sequentially is a concept that will begin to resonate with the child. Paul Sloane suggests the introduction of such a method of thinking, which is why Paul Sloane suggests the introduction of such a situation at a young age. This is said to help encourage the type of thinking of the child. [11]

Benefits for children of developing these thinking skills include, but are not limited to: [12]

  • Achieve stability both socially and emotionally
  • Develop physiological maturity at a younger age
  • Limit levels of anger and aggression
  • Perform at a higher level in classrooms
  • Improve personal and professional life

Vertical thinking vs lateral thinking

In the aforementioned book written by de Bono ( Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step ), the concept of lateral thinking is expressed in the polar opposite to the vertical thinking. [13]


Vertical thinking is distinguished by the fact that it is linear, while on the other side of the thinking can be seen as non-linear. The reason for this is the simple fact that vertical thinking utilizes a sequential method in solving problems, where only one solution is generally realized. On the other hand, the non-linear nature of lateral thinking multiple solutions to the problems are fashioned in a more imaginative manner. [14]


When an individual decides to employ vertical thinking in solving a problem, the objective is to create a solution of the “depth of knowledge” and the use of lateral thinking creates a solution where “breadth of knowledge” is exhibited. The depth of knowledge in an elucidation predominantly reflects how well the individual can construct a logical justification for their solution. In contrast, breadth of knowledge would express how well the individual can come up with a variety of solutions for the same problem. Disregarding aspects of logic and creativity of solutions, the disparity in objectives can be seen as a case of “quality against quantity”. [15]


The solutions created through vertical thinking is a finite process. By basing the outcome on existing knowledge rather than expending the depths of your creativity in a solution, there are only a few possible answers within logical limitations. Hence, the number of solutions are viewed as finite and in most cases are only limited to one. [14]


Following the publication of Bono’s Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step in the 1970s, Richard Paul and Linda Elder co-published the book Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge . [16]De bono is addressed directly in the book and fact that in the real world of the application of the method of thinking is fictitious is called upon. It is mentioned that due to the human cognitive process, the alignment towards a single method of thinking is simply not possible. Even when individuals adopt a sequential method of solving a problem, between the initiation and the conclusion of the question of having some form of creativity. In addition, in response to how Bono suggests the incitement of critical thinking in youth, Paul and Elder argue that critical thinking is not established, but rather an innate ability than every individual possesses. [17]

Evaluation of the concept

De bono that vertical thinking is a selective process while lateral thinking can be seen as generative. [5] An example of a straight line from point A to B can further this point. Through vertical thinking, where the most optimum answer is generated, the individual would simply move from A to B without any further exploration. Lateral thinking on the other side of the web. As the individual begins to the heart of the web, the paths diverge into many more possibilities. [18]

The use of vertical thinking is often favored in the academic literature, but there are noticeable shortcomings when considering this method of thinking. Vertical thinking is often preferred when considering academic credibility. [19]Due to the sequential nature of the thought process, the steps required to reach an outcome are often easily drawn from. This often adds to the perceived legitimacy Furthermore, when considering the linear approach, the solutions generated from such methods of thinking are often neutral, which is still preferred when bearing in mind an academic background. Moreover, the risks of this method of thinking is much less than that of lateral thinking. Backed by an existing knowledge base, solutions generated using this method are more well informed. [20]

Due to the perfectionism involved when creating a solution, there is often a lack of originality in the answers. Referring to this point, the most innovative ideas have been created and developed. To quote Henry Ford, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” The creation of the car engine can be used to exemplify the short-comings of vertical thinking we would still be riding horses today if an original approach to transportation was not realized. [21]Lastly, the use of vertical thinking in the field of vertical design makes it possible to create links between completely unrelated fields, in many cases leading to the generation of ideas that transcends existing structures. [22]

Measuring vertical thinking

There are tests that assess the characteristics that are associated with both the vertical thinking style. Some include:

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

This personality assessment, also known as MBTI , evaluates personality types and functions. For example, the features that relate to the vertical thinking / lateral thinking style that this test assesses, involves sensing versus intuition. [23]

Styles of Learning and Thinking

This instrument, otherwise known as the SO-LAT, evaluates analytic versus holistic thinking styles. The analytic thinking mode can be compared to vertical thinking, holistic thinking can be compared to lateral thinking.

Linear-Nonlinear Thinking Style Profile

Since there are no tests that measure nonlinear / linearly tailored, Vance, Groves, Paik, and Kindler created their own measure, the LNTSP, in 2007. [24] This measure contains 74 items that are generally associated with these features thinking styles, moreover, it could be compared to the MBTI. Vertical thinking (linear thinking), which is associated with external analytics, external data, and factual information. An example of a item used to measure linear thinking involves the phrase “I consider a quantitative decision when making a decision about a large purchase or investment, such as my age, budget needs, or future earnings.” [25]Furthermore, the participants who answer questions like this on the LNTSP would do so using a likert scale .

See also

  • Lateral Thinking
  • Logical Reason
  • Situation Puzzle
  • Thinking Design
  • Critical Thinking
  • Edward de Bono
  • Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
  • Convergent Thinking
  • Six Thinking Hats


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  21. Jump up^ “Henry Ford, Innovation, and That” Faster Horse “Quote” . Harvard Business Review . Retrieved 2015-11-04 .
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