Thinking horizontally

Thinking horizontally: What does it mean to think horizontally?

When thinking horizontally it means to think objectively, without bias. This type of thinking will allow you to arrive at a more complete conclusion by looking at all sides of an argument instead of sticking to one.

Thinking horizontally

On the flip side, when thinking vertically you are using stereotypes and generalizations of an idea to formulate your thoughts. So if you’re acting based on your ideas that people should be nice and act in a certain way – as opposed to thinking horizontally and considering all the other ways people can behave towards others – then you are doing so from a preconceived opinion rather than leveraging data for analysis.

How to get in the zone of thinking horizontally. 7 Practical examples

To think objectively without bias is actually one of the hardest things you can do as an individual – moreover it is one of the least effective ways to approach a problem or situation.

However, we all have to do this at some point in our day to day lives (we dress, choose our friends, and make decisions). Yet for some reason we are not able to do so normally – it seems almost impossible. The truth is that before you can think objectively the first thing you need to do is realize that bias and preconceptions play a major role in what you think (even if it isn’t conscious).

1. Use empathy and put yourself in the other person’s shoes

This can be hard for many to practice as it may involve forgetting their own ego and putting themselves in the shoes of somebody else. But it is possible to do so.

To do so, imagine the situation as if you were the person you have in mind. This includes how they see things, how they interact with others in that scenario, how they react to certain situations and what they believe is happening. When doing this you are trying to put yourself into their mindsets – understanding what they would view as a positive outcome and understand all sides of the argument.

2. If you have a stance on something, think as if you held the opposite opinion and go down the rabbit hole of understanding.

If you find yourself feeling one way about something then try thinking as if you were against it, and look at all the sides of the argument to understand why they may hold that view. When doing this there must be an attempt to gain understanding and enlightenment rather than just finding yourself arguing back with what they have said. This will help you to gain a greater understanding of the matter and better appreciate the other side.

The power of this can really change the way you think about things and in many cases sway your opinion or thought. Being open-minded about other peoples feelings and opinions will usually be the source of your enlightenment.

3. Recognise your bias

This is the hardest part, and it requires you to deeply analyse yourself and your own thoughts. It might be a good idea to have a friend or family member there when doing this – so that they can help you to spot some areas that you may be missing.

The first process of this is to understand the type of situations in which bias may come into play – for many we are biased during arguments, discussions and conversations. This is because we often judge the other person and our own mind.

We are also prone to bias during day to day decisions when we deal with money, family, friends and colleagues. All of these situations involve making personal judgements on people’s behaviour and personality types. In many cases these judgements don’t come from a place of understanding – rather they are often formed by a belief that you need to act as a certain way in order to fit with what is expected or ideal for others.

4. Ask yourself why you feel that way.

A good way to spot this is to ask yourself what evidence you have for thinking in that way. If you answer the question and have a list of facts (about yourself) then they are likely going to be ideas that you have subconsciously gathered from your life experiences. So think about the experiences you have had – what have you learnt from them?

You are going to need to start by ruling out those ideas that are based on false stereotypes or preconceptions. It is worth analysing each one so that you can find that root belief, where it comes from and understand why you are holding onto it.

The good news is that once you have become aware of your biases, and understood them then they are likely to become a degree less influential in your thinking process.

5. Ask others for advice

This is a very effective way of thinking objectively and considering all sides of the argument. It may seem like a strange thing to do, but it can be very powerful. When conducting this type of exercise what you want to do is interview people on your side of the argument and also those whom you disagree with. Try asking them questions about why they feel the way that they do, and go through an analysis with them as if you are trying to find data and support for your own opinion.

The more people you speak to, and the more perspectives you have on the matter then the better. It is also worth trying to get a range of people from different backgrounds with different opinions. This will help to give you a wider range of viewpoints and ideas which are likely to be much more representative of the reality around you.

You can also try asking yourself questions out loud or even writing things down so that you can try thinking objectively about them in your own mind – sometimes this is more effective than simply asking yourself questions alone.

What are the benefits of thinking horizontally

The benefits of thinking horizontally are so vast that it is almost all encompassing. These benefits help to develop your overall understanding, gain a better awareness and understanding of yourself and others, while also helping you to grow as a person.

Shifting your perspective allows you to take a step back from the issue which can be very useful in gaining deeper insight into your own mind, and providing better insight into the other person’s perspective.

Think horizontally and develop a more holistic outlook on things. You are going to be thinking differently about the same problem, and you are likely to find that this will have a profound effect on your own way of thinking. It is an unwritten rule of thinking that you must consider every side of an argument or issue in order to be able to judge it fairly.

When you think vertically, your mind is likely to stay on this one subject in isolation – taking one aspect at a time which can often lead to bias and misunderstanding. Think horizontally and you are likely to see connections between different areas of your life and be able to draw upon your past experiences in a much more meaningful way.

Thinking horizontally allows you to work from both sides of the brain. Moving from a logical process of analysing an argument (left brain) to something creative and abstract (right brain). This helps to stimulate, balance and evolve your thinking which will ultimately lead to greater enlightenment and understanding.

What is horizontal problem solving?

Horizontal problem solving uses a technique that will require you to step back from the problem and gain a more holistic view of it. Being able to look at a problem from this 3D perspective will allow you to see much clearer and be able to analyse it in a much more effective way.

This kind of thinking is often referred to as lateral thinking or lateral problem solving because of the way that you must shift your perspective from vertical, diagonal, side on or angle ways.

Horizontal problem solving can be applied to any type of issue or situation, from making decisions to solving a puzzle and is an excellent way of thinking for anyone who is trying to push their mind in a new direction.

How can I think horizontally?

There are many things that you can do in order to enable yourself to think horizontally. A good place to start would be by taking away any distractions and focusing on the thing that you want to analyse or develop a solution for.

Write down the problem as if you are explaining it to someone else – think about how they would explain it, what they would ask, and what other ideas or solutions they might have.

Step out of the situation or issue and go somewhere quieter where you will be able to think freely. You can do this by taking a walk around your neighbourhood, or even going for a run. The idea is to get out of your normal routine so that you can analyse the subject from a different perspective.

Don’t think about this problem in isolation. Try to connect it to other aspects of your life, or other problems that you can solve. Don’t be afraid to go off on tangents or make wild associations as you may just discover a new route towards a solution.

Allow yourself the freedom of thinking freely without any inhibitions or concerns about being right or wrong. Just write down whatever comes into your head, and believe that there are no limits as to where it could go.


There are so many benefits of thinking horizontally, and it is an extremely useful way of thinking that can be applied to almost anything. It also allows you to develop your mind in a different direction which is going to push you in a new way.

This kind of thinking requires a lot of creativity and originality but can help to unlock your mind in ways that you never thought possible. It allows you to think from different perspectives and be able to apply yourself creatively in order to solve the problem or analysing the situation.

Think about your problem from every possible angle and try to keep your mind open at all times. Look at the issue in relation to other things in life, other things that you have done and the way that you have thought about them. You will be amazed by the results.

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