Vertical thinking

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Vertical thinking is a type of approach to problems that usually involves one being selective, analytical, and sequential. It could be said that it is the opposite of lateral thinking.[1]Unlike lateral thinking that involves using added intuition, risk taking, and imagination through unconscious and subconscious processes, vertical thinking consists of using more of a conscious approach via rational assessment in order to take in information or make decisions.[2] Vertical thinkers prefer to rely on external data and facts in order avoid failure or counterfactual thinking. [3] It can also be said that a balance of both vertical and lateral thinking would be ideal for entrepreneurs in today’s business environments.

Measuring vertical thinking[edit]

There are tests available 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 characteristics that relate to the vertical thinking/lateral thinking style that this test assesses, involves sensing versus intuition.[4]
  • 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, whereas holistic thinking can be compared to lateral thinking.
  • Linear–Nonlinear Thinking Style Profile: Since there are no tests that measure nonlinear/linear thinking specifically, Vance, Groves, Paik, and Kindler created their own measure, the LNTSP, in 2007.[3] This measure contains 74 items that evaluates the characteristics that are mostly associated with these thinking styles, additionally, it could be compared to the MBTI. Vertical thinking (linear thinking) focused on items that are associated with using analytic thinking, external data, and factual information. An example of a item used to measure linear thinking involves the phrase "I primarily weigh quantitative factors when making a decision about a large purchase or investment, such as my age, budget needs, or future earnings." [5] Furthermore, the participants that answer questions like this on the LNTSP would do so using a likert scale.


  1. ^ Whetten, David (2011). Developing Management Skills. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. p. 744. ISBN 978-0-13-612100-8. 
  2. ^ Groves, K., Vance, C., Choi, D. (2011). "Examining entrepreneurial cognition:An occupational analysis of balanced linear and nonlinear thinking and entrepreneurship success". Journal of Small Business Management 49 (3): 438–466. 
  3. ^ a b Groves, K.S., & Vance, C.M. (2009). "Examining managerial thinking style, eq, and organizational commitment". Journal of Managerial Issues 21 (3): 344-366. 
  4. ^ Groves, K., Vance, C., & Paik, Y. (2007). "Linking linear/nonlinear thinking style balance and managerial ethical decision making". Journal of Business Ethics 80: 305–325. doi:10.1007/s10551-007-9422-4. 
  5. ^ Vance, C.M., Groves, K.S., Paik, Y., & Kindler, H. (2007). "Understanding and measuring linear–nonlinear thinking style for enhanced management education and professional practice". Academy of Management Learning & Education 6 (2): 167–185.