Look at Things Differently!

by Gert Garman | 07 Sep 2021

Industry Commentary, Op-Ed

Creative Problem Solving:  Think Differently!

Convergent and Divergent Thinking

Both convergent and divergent thinking are instrumental in the brainstorming process. Neither one is more important than the other. We need them both to get to different solutions.  They mix like oil and water though, so they must be used separately, yet in conjunction of solving the same challenge. When faced with a problem, we need to explore many options (divergence). Afterwards, we narrow down our choices and decide on the “best” solution (convergence).

Divergent thinking talks about considering several solutions to a certain problem. It is sometimes referred to as “lateral thinking” which is a term credited to Edward De Bono. As one of the authorities in creativity, he proposed that problems should be solved through indirect and creative strategies. This mindset is best utilized in inventive tasks such as free writing, creative artwork, mind mapping, and brainstorming.

The characteristics of divergent thinking are much like how children think and act:

  • Imaginative
  • Fun filled
  • Curious
  • Playful

What about convergent thinking?

Joy Paul Guilford, an American psychologist, coined the term “convergent thinking”.  It refers to making choices.  We can’t use all of the ideas generated in divergent thinking, so which one(s) will solve this challenge the best?

The characteristics of convergent thinking are comparable to how adults think.  Reasoning and making decisions are involved plus all the “ize words”:

  • Rationalize
  • Synthesize
  • Organize
  • Finalize

As compared to lateral, divergent thinking, convergent thinking focuses more on linear thought processes.

Both divergent and convergent thinking are essential in problem solving.  Divergent thinking is expansionist while convergent thinking strongly focuses on the exact answer. Divergence considers a number of ideas whereas convergence seeks the best solution for the challenge presented. Thus, quantity vs quality.  But, remember not to mix them.  Once you’ve completed divergent thinking, then proceed to convergent thinking!  Happy brainstorming!


#divergentthinking #convergentthinking #innovation #creativity

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