Divya Parekh, of The DP Group, covers business growth, storytelling, high-impact performance and authority building.
Are you struggling to find effective solutions to problems you face in your professional or entrepreneurial ventures? Are you often indecisive when faced with complex decisions?
The ability to solve problems and make decisions quickly and effectively can mean the difference between success and failure. There are two main approaches to problem-solving and decision-making: vertical thinking and horizontal thinking. Both approaches have strengths and weaknesses, so understanding the differences between them can help you apply the right method at the right time.
Let’s look at a few case studies to understand the very different benefits of these two approaches.
Vertical Thinking For Decision-Making
First, let’s take Jane, the CFO of a financial services company. She needs to decide whether to invest in a new company software system.
Jane gathers all the relevant data about the software system and analyzes it thoroughly. She compares the cost of the system to the potential benefits, evaluates the risks involved and consults with subject matter experts. After careful consideration, she decides the benefits outweigh the costs and risks, and the company should invest in the software system.
This is vertical thinking: making a well-informed decision based on a thorough analysis of the data. Vertical thinking is especially useful in situations where there is a clear goal and a need for a precise, data-driven approach. Experts often use it in fields like finance, where decisions depend heavily on facts and figures.
Horizontal Thinking For Problem-Solving
Let’s move on to Sophie, the head of marketing for a fashion company. The company has been struggling to attract new customers.
Sophie sets up a brainstorming meeting with different department heads. They come up with a variety of creative solutions based on their diverse perspectives. One idea that stands out is to partner with a popular social media influencer to promote the company’s products. The team works together to develop a plan to reach out to the influencer and negotiate a partnership.
This is horizontal thinking: working with a team to generate a variety of ideas and consider different perspectives to find an innovative solution. Horizontal thinking is a great approach for problem-solving when the problem is complex and there may be multiple solutions or approaches. Creative professionals, especially in marketing, advertising and designing, highly value this approach.
How Emotions Affect These Approaches
Over several years of coaching, I’ve noticed that emotions can play a significant role in problem-solving and decision-making, regardless of the thinking style used.
For instance, when using vertical thinking, emotions such as frustration and impatience can arise when a person or team has been working on a problem for an extended period with no clear solution. Conversely, when a team lands on a solution, there can be a sense of relief and accomplishment.
Similarly, when using horizontal thinking, emotions such as excitement and optimism can arise during a brainstorming session when new and creative ideas are being generated. However, disappointment or frustration can also arise when an idea fails to work.
It’s important to recognize and acknowledge these emotions as they can affect team dynamics and ultimately, the success of the problem-solving process. I encourage leaders to create a safe and supportive environment where team members feel comfortable expressing their emotions and concerns.
Make These Thinking Styles Work For You
In my experience, a personalized approach that balances both vertical and horizontal thinking can help manage emotions and any other issues that arise effectively. By using vertical thinking to identify specific problems and solutions, and horizontal thinking to generate creative ideas, you can create a problem-solving process that encourages collaboration, creativity and innovation while minimizing negative emotions.
Are you ready to take your problem-solving and decision-making skills to the next level?