Divergent Thinking

Divergent thinking is the process of thinking that explores multiple possible solutions in order to generate creative ideas. This thought process is not as straight forward as convergent thinking, but used in conjunction with it. The term “divergent” refers to developing in different directions, so divergent thinking refers to opening the mind in various directions and trying out multiple solutions for a problem. The characteristics of divergent thinking include

  • Spontaneous
  • Free-flowing
  • Non-linear


Unlike convergent thinking, divergent thinking relates to figuring out new procedures to solve a problem despite existing solutions. This process opens new doors, so to speak, instead of choosing the predetermined ones. Divergent thinking generates its name from the idea that there are limitless number of solutions for any given problem, however unrelated they might be, which are then spread on the table to pick out the best one.

It’s also an essential aspect of creative thinking. You do not simply land on the best possible solution out of chance or luck every time. Creative process involves plucking out varieties of potential results, leading to formation of new ideas, and the best solution is chosen then after, which can be deemed as the result of creativity.

Relation to Convergent Thinking

Divergent thinking takes place in a free-flowing manner and is spontaneous, which results in multiple possible solutions in short amount of time. This procedure is unorganized and yields unexpected connections. The information and ideas obtained as a result of divergent thinking can be structured using convergent thinking to produce a single most effective answer.

For instance, processes like brainstorming, creative thinking and free writing are parts of divergent thinking applied at the beginning of a problem solving process. Various solutions produced by the method can be used to sort out the best possible answer thereafter. Most popular techniques used in convergent thinking are knowledge, probabilities, logic, decision making strategies, and answers evaluated from multiple techniques are individually analyzed to figure out the best possible solution.

Examples

In contrast to the previous example mentioned in the article Convergent Thinking, a person isn’t always either sick or healthy. A person can be both sick and healthy. For instance, a man can be under great stress mentally but perfectly fit physically. Or, he could be suffering from cold while his mental stature is top notch.

Likewise, a medical student doesn’t always have to be either a doctor or nothing. She could very well make a career switch in the future and be a writer, or a painter. The possibilities are very much feasible. Thinking about various possibilities is the virtue of a divergent thinker.

Advantages

  • A divergent thinker doesn’t always see the world as Black and/or white. There is more to it. Not every question has to be answered in a yes/no. A divergent thinker is broad minded and isn’t focused on finding the absolute answer every time, but rather he/she is more focused on keeping the options open.
  • Not being linear towards finding a solution leads to higher creativity.

Disadvantages

  • Divergent thinker isn’t always able to pin-point the right answer. For instance, in a standardized aptitude test, a convergent thinker might be able to decide the right answer, but the contemplating mind of a divergent thinker might work against him in the situation.