Are you a diagonal thinker? - Factor 3

Are you a diagonal thinker?

‘What on earth is diagonal thinking?’ is probably the first question that springs to mind. Have you ever wondered what makes agencies so good at what they do? How they understand your brand and cut through the clutter, possessing the happy knack of seeing the wood for the trees and providing that crucial direction? Well, that’s ‘Diagonal Thinking’.

If you don’t get to the end of this blog entry, I won’t be offended. So, I want to take this early opportunity to encourage you to take the free Diagonal Thinking Self Assessment test at

It’s actually an IPA initiative to identify what features are shared by people, from all disciplines, that make it to the top in the advertising industry. The word ‘advertising’ is used here in its widest sense to include all commercial communications such as direct marketing, sales promotion, public relations, sponsorship etc, which are designed to create publicity and reputation for a product, service, charity or social brand. Birth child of ex-Director General of the IPA, Hamish Pringle, ‘Diagonal Thinking’ is a lengthy and ongoing research project that has tested and validated the hypothesis that the most successful individuals working in adland are both linear and lateral thinkers — they think ‘diagonally’.

The Diagonal Thinking Hypothesis

a graph showing how diagonal thinking follows an even trend between linear and lateral thinking

To quote the IPA, “These top brains in commercial creativity are innovative, can explain concepts in both rational and emotional terms, have a broad range of interests and a passion for execution. They can be highly logical, but link ideas hitherto seen as remote from each other; they want to do work that is creative, but also for it to have a practical impact.”

Interestingly, the different agency disciplines all fall on different areas of the Diagonal Thinking spectrum, importantly possessing a different cocktail of the linear and lateral thinking qualities.

As I said, the great news is that there is a free Diagonal Thinking Self Assessment Tool that anyone can have a go at – It’s really challenging and really interesting and, yes, I’ve had a go at it and found out my diagonal thinking score. So, do your agency personnel possess the all-important diagonal thinking? Or, have you ever considered a career in advertising and wondered if you’re cut out for it? Why not just take the test out of curiosity and empathy? I’ll show you mine if you show me yours…


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