Convergent and Divergent Thinking

Convergent and Divergent Thinking

Convergent and divergent thinking are two opposite ends of a spectrum for cognitive approaches to problem solving.



Divergent thinking seeks to generate multiple possible answers to problems from multiple perspectives. On the other end of the spectrum, convergent thinking involving finding the one right answer to a problem that has a single solution. Basically, convergent thinking has you see a limited number of options, while divergent thinking has you looking for multiple options.



Divergent thinking refers to the ability to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions in an effort to find one that works.

Convergent thinking refers to the ability to put a number of different pieces from different perspectives of a topic together in some organized, logical manner to find a single answer.



Convergent and Divergent Thinking Comparison


Convergent Thinking

Convergent stems from the word “converge” which means “come together.” Convergent thinking involves putting a number of different pieces of a topic together to find a single answer. The deductive reasoning Sherlock Holmes used in solving mysteries is a good example of convergent thinking. By gathering various bits of information, he was able to put the pieces of a puzzle together and come up with a logical answer to the question of “Who done it?”

Convergent thinking is what you engage in when you answer a multiple choice or fill-in-the-blank question. This type of thinking assumes there is one correct way to do things. Therefore, in convergent thinking, you begin by focusing on a limited number of choices as possible solutions. You then choose the one correct answer. Because you are finding a single answer, this type of thinking helps you make a decision and bring closure to a problem.


Convergent Thinking Example:

You want to travel to Boston from New York. You are looking for the fastest way to get there. You may consider several options such a plane, bus, car, or train, but ultimately decide on the one fastest way.




Divergent Thinking

Divergent thinking is a creative process that helps you generate multiple possibilities. It generally resists the accepted ways of doing things and seeks alternatives. Therefore, the possibilities you generate are often original and unique ideas.

Divergent stems from the word “diverge” which means “go in different directions.” Divergent thinking is thinking outwards instead of inward. It starts from a common point and moves outward in diverging directions to involve a variety of aspects or perspectives. It opens your mind to various possibilities in all directions. It has you looking for options as opposed to choosing from a set of predetermined ones. However, with divergent thinking, you then need to assess and evaluate those possibilities before you make a conclusion and bring closure to the problem.


Divergent Thinking Example:

You want to travel to Boston from New York. You are looking for options of how you can get there. You may generate ideas such a plane, train, boat, bus, car, scooter, motorcycle, bicycle, taxi, walking, or hitchhiking.



Related Links

Creative Thinking Process

Convergent and Divergent Thinking

Analytical Thinking

Lateral Thinking

Lateral Thinking Techniques


Types of Thinking


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