Vertical Thinking VS Horizontal Thinking

3 min readMay 17, 2019

Vertical Thinking:

Vertical thinking can be thought of as a sequence of direct & logical steps that are used to come a conclusion.

Lateral Thinking:

It is about using an indirect & creative approach to come a conclusion.


One example that can help easily contrast the major difference between vertical & lateral thinking goes like this.

  • Pretend that some needs to get a treasure chest buried deep underground.
  • A person using vertical thinking will dig a hole & keep digging that same hole deeper untill they (hopefully) get to the treasure chest.
  • A person with lateral thinking may dig a hole for a while & realize it may not the best spot to dig,so why not try digging a hole somewhere else instead .


Just from this example, one can see that vertical thinking is a rigid way of thinking. It’s about sticking to approach you have taken from the beginning & excluding any other approach. Lateral thinking is flexible. It’s all about thinking about a problem from different angles, if they’re a bit controversial & generating new approaches to same old thing.

Vertical Thinking VS Horizontal Thinking:

Vertical thinking:

  • Classical
  • Selective
  • Steps continue one after another
  • Analytical
  • Sequential
  • May use negation
  • Logical
  • Use categories & classifications
  • Follows the most likely paths, the most probable direction
  • Finite process with conclusion

Horizontal thinking:

  • Unconventional
  • Creative, generative
  • Seeks new ways
  • Provocative
  • Can make jumps
  • Breaks all bans
  • Illogical
  • Distributing elements are welcome explores the least likely
  • Prefers the most improbable way
  • Original ideas
  • Never ending process
  • Probabilistic