In the previous post, we discussed the 4Ps of Creativity — Process, Person, Press and Product. As was discussed, the Person is the entrepreneur or the intrapreneur who uses the Process and the environment (Press) to create the Product.
What makes the Person more creative? How is it that Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton came up and answered fundamental questions in physics? How is it that Nikola Tesla came up with a novel electrical system design? In all such cases, the scientists and inventors were able to look at the problems from different angles than the conventional way, generated a few possible solutions, and used their existing knowledge and skills to converge on a solution. As Thomas Edison once said:
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
So, when most well-known inventors and scientists faced a new problem, they first diverged, then converged. In this post, we will discuss what Divergent Thinking (DT) and Convergent Thinking (CT) means and how we can measure and improve them. Note that, any creative problem solver needs to have both abilities to be successful.
Divergent Thinking is the ability to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions in an effort to find one that works.
Divergent Thinking starts from a common point and moves outward in diverging directions to involve a variety of aspects or perspectives. It is the type of thinking we do when solving an abstract or new problem that hasn’t been solved before and could have many possible answers, solutions, or outcomes. This ability comprises of four dimensions; Originality, Flexibility, Fluency and Elaboration.
Originality — Originality is the measure of the infrequency of your responses. It is the ability to look beyond obvious solutions and generate novel ideas and responses. It is how unique and “out-of-this-world” your solutions are. These responses will be unexpected and unfamiliar and may often lead to breakthrough solutions. However, be aware that your ability is negatively affected if your solutions are not relevant to the current task or problem on-hand.
Flexibility — Flexibility is the ability to generate a variety of ideas and responses across different categories, and to look at the problems from different points-of-view. It is also the ability to simultaneously think about different concepts as well as switching between them. High Flexible thinkers are non-linear thinkers and are able to hold two opposing points-of-view in their mind at the same time. It is the ability associated with most effective leaders in organizations.
Fluency — Fluency is both the ability to generate a large number of ideas or responses and the ability to deliberately generate alternatives, even when you are satisfied with your current ideas. An individual who has high Fluency in creative thinking has the ability to think of many diverse ideas quickly. While Flexibility is about diverse categories of ideas, Fluency is about creating ideas in a specific category.
Elaboration — Elaboration is the ability to expand on an idea and embellish it with details. It is also the ability to create an intricate plan. Unlike Fluency, which is the ability to generate ideas, Elaboration refers to the details within each idea. Elaborate leaders tend to be eloquent, expressive and persuasive. It’s the ability that put your peers and your colleagues at-ease, especially because they might notice the amount of detail and transparency you are willing to provide.
Divergent Thinking assessments are slowly, but surely becoming more popular in both selections and development stages.
In order to accurately measure one’s Divergent Thinking abilities, one must be given a set of open-ended stimuli, scenarios and exercises. One main reason that divergent thinking assessments are not well-received is the inability to grade them efficiently. It requires trained graders, which in return is time-consuming and costly. One of the well-researched and well-known assessments is SparcIt’s Creative Thinking assessment. Unlike traditional assessment, SparcIt’s unique feature is the use of open-ended exercises and automated scoring. Using a Watson-like engine, SparcIt’s patent-pending engin, accurately and efficiently grades the participants’ responses and provide a detailed report to the participants and the test administrators.
Convergent Thinking is the type of thinking we do when solving a well-defined, straightforward, correct answer to a problem.
Convergent Thinking is used when there is a correct answer to a problem. It is the ability to put a number of different pieces or perspectives of a topic together in some organized, logical manner to find a single answer. It involves focusing on a finite number of solutions rather than proposing multiple solutions. Your Convergent Thinking abilities are abilities related to your subject-knowledge, logic, intelligence and your ability to focus when needed.
Subject-knowledge and Expertise — Subject-knowledge and expertise are described as information acquired through experience or education. It implies you are a leader in a field through having a level of skill that goes beyond just knowing things. All creative and accomplished individuals are subject-matter-expert in a given field. All use the combination of their knowledge gained through experience and education with their creative abilities to create the next process or product.
Logic and Reasoning — Logic and Reasoning are cognitive processes of using a rational, systematic series of steps based on sound scientific or mathematical procedures to arrive at a conclusion. It is the capability of making sense of things, establishing and verifying facts, changing or justifying practices and beliefs based on a new set of information. All creative individuals need solid and sound reasoning to prove their points and convince others to partake in their new product or process.
Focus and Concentration — Focus is the action or power of purely putting one’s effort in completing a task. It is a mental ability to block all external noises and distractions when needed. In today’s fast-paced and hectic world with newsletters and social media at our finger-tips, one’s concentration is hardly on one task or topic at a time. But it is becoming an issue for most employers as employers are attempting at creating environment avoid of any external noises when needed.
Intelligence — Intelligence is the ability to comprehend and perceive. It is the mental capability that, among other things, involves the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, learn quickly, comprehend complex ideas and learn from experience. It is not merely a narrow academic skill, book-learning or test-taking smarts. Rather, it reflects a broader and deeper capability for comprehending our surroundings to make sense of things or figure things out.
Any IQ test is a great way of measuring one’s convergent thinking abilities as all IQ tests use our knowledge and our logic to converge to the right answer.
Creative problem-solvers possess both Divergent and Convergent Thinking abilities.
When faced with a new problem, we tend to diverge first, look at different and possible angles, then converge and choose the best possible solutions for the given problem.
A recent study proved that having the knowledge and intelligence is crucial to being creative. However, having the knowledge and intelligence does not guarantee one is also creative. Any creative problem-solver has both divergent and convergent thinking abilities.