Bringing together divergent and convergent thinking

Two different types of cognitive thinking can be brought together to really amp up the approach to thinking about a problem and bring out an apt solution space.

Divergent thinking specifically requires to think about several approaches and bring about options. Divergent thinking is taking a challenge and attempting to identify all of the possible directions that it can go into, then listing all of the ideas in these directions. Brainstorming is one way. Random Input is another. Inversion Technique, perhaps? There could be many more. Pick whatever bakes your noodle. The core is to make sure a certain stimulus leads to multiple ideas, unabashed, unrestrained. For example: What all uses can a paperclip be put to?

In short,

  • Generating a list of ideas
  • Free-flowing open discussion
  • Seeking diverse points of view
  • Suspending judgement

Convergent thinking is more about taking the facts or inputs, and bringing them together to lead to an answer. It’s almost also suggesting a constraint set within which you’ll want to fit all inputs and ideas and get as soon as possible to the right answer. For example: How can a paperclip be used to open a door?

What it means:

  • Sorting ideas into themes
  • Summarising key points
  • Deciding which points to use
  • Exercising judgment

Start Divergent, end Convergent. I think that’s the sweet spot. This depends on your team size, and how much time you want to spend in the divergent thinking space, and when do you want converge into a solution space.

“Any App ideas?” is really divergent. Once you start getting into a phase where you run out of ideas, or time is beginning to get precious, something like “Let’s take some of these ideas and make a photography App?” will get you to converge fast.

More importantly — Roll your sleeves, get into it, enjoy.

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