Divergent & Convergent Thinking Skills
1. Divergent thinking
This is the process of thinking of many original, diverse and complex ideas. People who do this easily are considered creative. They have the capacity to:
- view the need or issue in a different way and think outside the box
- confidently express their ideas and ‘play’ with them, that is change them, extend them, review them exaggerate them and so on. Often people do have ideas but they don’t feel confident about expressing them. What is needed is the confidence to express ideas and expose yourself and your ideas to criticism; and
- conceptualise how ideas would work. For example, a visual person can look at an empty room and visualise how it will look decorated, a musical person can hear a whole line of music in their head, a mechanical person can envisage a new tool needed for a specific purpose.
Creativity has been described as a muscle which can be exercised. The process of divergent thinking has been described as unlocking your creative flow.
Having identified the need or opportunity, this part of the process poses these questions:
- what worked before?
- what could work in the future?
- how could we use something in a completely new way?
- could something new be used?
- what could come from looking at other people’s ideas?
- if I thought about it from a different perspective, what would I come up with?
- what can I see the end user doing with it?; and
- what’s new in this area? How can I apply new concepts to this issue?
2. Convergent thinking
Convergent thinking is the process of filtering the ideas to find ones that are practical. It is the intellectual ability to evaluate logically, to critique and to choose the best idea from a range of ideas. By applying technical knowledge and knowledge of the user needs and constraints, one or two good ideas can be developed.
Questions to include at this stage are:
would this work?
could it be achieved?
is it technically possible?
are resources available to fund it?
will it look attractive?
will it be environmentally friendly?
would it be safe?
is it what the end user wants, needs or will use?
what other equipment/resources are needed to make it work?
is it in line with other comparable developments?;
what expertise will be needed to make it work?
can it be promoted
People who do this easily can:
critique an idea in relation to a set of criteria
evaluate ideas logically
select the best idea from a range of ideas
apply technical knowledge to select ideas.
Divergent thinking v/s convergent thinkingWe think of divergent thinkers as creative and convergent thinkers as analytical, and often see these two types as totally different. In fact, both sets of skills are essential to the process of generating ideas. Regardless of which type of thinking we feel most comfortable with, we can all learn to apply techniques to improve both our creative and analytical thinking. The main block to being creative can often be that we don’t think of ourselves as creative and don’t allow ourselves to express our ideas and expose them to criticism.