We often speak about lateral and vertical thinking, but what exactly does that mean, and how does it differ from traditional teachings? Is it best to go with the flow of tradition, or look for answers to complex problems through a different process?

Vertical Thinkers

  • Are methodical and take things step-by-step
  • Do not like to make mistakes
  • Go for deep knowledge and things based on facts and not assumptions
  • Do not like to stray from established patterns or rules
  • Like structure and learn in terms of linear or sequences
  • Analyze a problem before they act, taking in details before they see the whole picture

Vertical thinking produces people who are capable of making correct decisions under ambiguous circumstances. They use the ‘correct’ way to solve a problem by analyzing the situation and then taking the tried-and-true approach. This process of reasoning often serves well for scientific research and for the further advancement of the medical and scientific disciplines.

Lateral Thinkers

  • Are not restricted by established patterns and prefer to find their own path
  • Are creative and go off in many directions
  • Don’t mind making mistakes because they learn from them
  • Think in terms of the whole picture, and don’t limit themselves
  • Often act before taking everything into account, taking in the whole picture before the details

This form of creative thinking incorporates reasoning and imagination. New ideas are born from these type of thinkers by adding imagination and reasoning abilities. They are not bound by logic or external demands and are not confined by linear thinking.

Traditional Thinkers

  • Things are as they always have been, and always will be
  • Maintains the status quo
  • Logic and argumentation have no place because there are no alternatives
  • Sees things in black and white, with no gray areas
  • Don’t make mistakes because the authority is always right

The traditional thinkers do not like change, and will fight to keep it away. They are comfortable in doing things the way their parents did, and their parents before them. They do not tolerate questioning of authority, and are flexible as long as the authority is not challenged. This type of thinker is unbending, and usually lives a secluded and restrictive life and makes those around them do the same.

We live in a society where things change on a daily basis. What worked before no longer does in most areas of our lives, so a traditional thinker becomes more secluded and enforces their traditions within their nucleus family or supporters.

Vertical thinkers have their place. They are the ones who are dependable at work and home. They are predictable and stable, and when given a job to do follow it through until completion. They are methodical, and get the job done right.

Lateral thinkers are the life of the party, and the joker in class, but are usually the ones with the highest IQ’s. They don’t follow the crowd, and look for new and inventive ways to approach a problem because the last thing they want to be is bored. These are the moguls who start tech companies and invent new ways to do things. They are the employers and the creators.

This is Ron White. I would like to think the majority of us have just a little of each of these to balance us out. Who wouldn’t want to be the life of the party, but still be stable enough to take care of those we love? There’s nothing wrong with wanting to keep some tradition in our lives as well – that’s how legends and folk stories are passed along, and family’s unify.




Lateral Thinking Skills: http://www.kent.ac.uk/careers/sk/lateral.htm

Mind Tools – Creativity Tools Start Here: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newCT_00.htm

Wikipedia – Lateral Thinking: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lateral_thinking

deBono Consulting – Lateral Thinking: http://www.debonoconsulting.com/lateral_thinking.asp

Universal Financial – Why Traditional Thinking Fails To Reach Its Goals: http://www.ufcamerica.com/wealth-creation/traditional-thinking-fails