Some people pride themselves on how logical they are — they're always thinking through ideas, issues and decisions efficiently, going through the structured motions and coming up with evidence-based conclusions that seem to work. Meanwhile, others are proud of their creativity, always considering big ideas that may or may not come out of left field.
Everyone operates differently and, as such, we all use different processes to solve problems and make decisions. One common way to do just that, however, is to think linearly. In fact, most of us think this way a good chunk of the time because, as humans, we're largely wired to think in such a way.
Linear thinking is exactly what it seems: It's thinking in a linear flow. Linear thinkers are the aforementioned logical ones. They follow a step-by-step progression that, ultimately (and ideally), leads them to a solution. Linear thinking is also called sequential thinking because, in a linear thinker's mind, one thing leads to another in a stepwise fashion.
Of course, the linear thought process has advantages and disadvantages in comparison to the nonlinear approach.
Linear and lateral thinking are very different and tap into two opposite sides of the brain.
Again, linear thinking refers to a thought process that flows in a straightforward, logical way.
Linear thinkers tend to solve problems and make decisions by taking the information that they have from one situation and applying that information to another situation. They look for consistency, patterns and a general formula that they can apply to everyday life.
Some examples of linear thinking include the following:
Now, you might be wondering, what is opposite of linear thinking? The answer is lateral (also known as fragmented) thinking. So, perhaps the better question is, what is fragmented thinking?
Lateral (aka nonlinear or fragmented) thinking refers to a more creative, perhaps unorthodox thought process. Lateral thinkers solve problems and make decisions often by viewing the issue or decision at hand in an indirect, new and atypical light. Lateral thinkers, therefore, tend to make connections among unrelated concepts or ideas and draw conclusions from the information they have from different experiences, fields, situations, etc.
Lateral thinking is harder to put into an equation than linear thinking, because it just doesn't work that way.
"Asking open-ended questions in attempting to solve a problem is an example of non-linear thinking," according to Psycholo Genie. "In a survey about the customer reviews of a product or service, questions like 'what do you feel about using our service/product?' or 'how a particular thing has made a difference to your life?', are examples of non-linear thinking. In a board meeting, when several executives brainstorm about solving a problem, they pour out their ideas, the ideas of one person fuel the creativity of another person, and thus they arrive at a unanimous decision or conclusion, it is an example of non-linear thinking."
Lateral thinkers are the creative types throwing out all the possible ideas and solutions.
There are, of course, both pros and cons to linear and lateral thinking.
Here are some of the pros to linear thinking:
Here are some of the cons to linear thinking:
Here are some of the pros to nonlinear thinking:
Here are some of the cons to nonlinear thinking:
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.
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