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Convergent Thinking Versus Divergent Thinking



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Imagine you have a problem that you need to solve

and you're looking for innovative solutions

In this moment there's a good chance you'll choose one of two cognitive approaches

In 1956 the psychologist J.P. Guildford coined the terms

convergent thinking and divergent thinking

to describe these 2 contrasting approaches

Convergent thinking is linear

and systematic while divergent thinking is more web-like, focusing on

the connections between ideas

Convergent thinking narrows down multiple ideas

into a single solution.

On the other hand, divergent thinking

expands outward by generating multiple ideas

Often thinking like a hacker and using materials in

original ways. Here you treat barriers as

design opportunities.

Convergent thinking tends to be more focused

while divergent thinking is more flexible and iterative

Convergent thinking is analytical and focuses on

what's best.

By contrast, divergent thinking is more open-ended and participants are

encouraged here to take creative risks

Even if some of the ideas might not work

Convergent thinking asks "Why?"

Divergent thinking asks "Why not?"

Now it may seem like these two approaches

are competitive but they actually go hand-in-hand

Often teams will use divergent thinking

to generate multiple ideas followed by convergent thinking

to analyze and narrow down the ideas

and then later they'll use divergent thinking to come up

with fresh perspectives followed by convergent thinking

yet again in this ongoing cycle

Both are necessary