Introduction: What is divergent thinking and how can it be used to make better decisions?
If you’re trying to get ahead in your career, your next challenge might be learning how to do Divergent Thinking, a method developed by J. P. Guilford in the late 1960s.
Although divergent thinking is a popular term used in education and business circles, many people don't know what it means. In short, divergent thinking refers to the ability to come up with new ideas or solutions to problems. It is used to identify unconventional solutions to an issue and it can be applied to everything from brainstorming solutions to academic problems, to brainstorming new marketing tactics.
Divergent thinking helps you make better decisions by seeing different perspectives and considering alternate solutions. This approach can help you solve problems faster and with less risk.
It is a skill that's crucial for finding creative solutions to complex problems—which is why it's essential in the 21st century. Research shows that people who possess divergent thinking skills have a much higher chance of finding innovative solutions to problems, and interestingly, divergent thinkers have higher earning potential.
Benefits of divergent thinking
Divergent thinking is important for understanding the world around us. This type of thinking is the basis of creativity and innovation. The benefits of divergent thinking are numerous, with the most important outlined below. But it should be noted that divergent thinking isn't that only way to approach decision making, and is not always the best way; it depends on what your are trying to achieve.
Divergent thinking can:
Help you see different perspectives and consider alternate solutions
Help you solve problems faster and with less risk
Help you develop creative solutions to difficult problems
Help you get into the mindset that there are no wrong answers
Help increase productivity
What is convergent thinking?
The alternative to divergent thinking is convergent thinking which is the process of electively organising your thoughts in such a way that you arrive at a single solution or conclusion. It relies on a process of elimination, in which you consider multiple solutions to a problem, or choose from among multiple courses of action, then discard those that don't fit or are not viable.
Benefits of convergent thinking?
Divergent thinking focuses on finding several solutions to problems, whereas convergent thinking focuses on analysing and assessing one problem to come up with the best solution.
You may have noticed that a lot of professions use convergent thinking in their daily routines, and that’s because convergent thinking is an extremely useful skill. This cognitive process is what enables you to analyse the facts and come to a conclusion, or draw a conclusion from a set of facts. And this is the reason a lot of important decisions use convergent thinking to come up with their conclusions.
Brainstorming: How to come up with new ideas using divergent thinking
When making decisions, it is important to use divergent thinking. It helps you to come up with ideas that are different from what others may have thought of. It can help you make better decisions because it allows you to consider all possible options, and then choose the best one.
Brainstorming is a technique that can help you come up with creative solutions to difficult problems and develop new ideas. It involves generating as many ideas as possible without censorship or criticism. It uses a non-linear, non-critical, non-predictable process of generating new ideas.
Here are some tips on how to use divergent thinking to make better decisions:
Get organised. When you have a clear plan of what you want to do, it will be easier for you to use divergent thinking.
Don't forget to look at the most obvious solutions. Just because you are trying to be creative, doesn't mean you should overlook the easy and straightforward ideas
Don't be afraid to combine different ideas. This can often result in the best solutions
How should you use divergent thinking in real-life decision making?
Divergent thinking is best used when creating ideas for dealing with a problem or making a decision. Most new ideas or solutions use a combination of divergent and convergent thinking. And while there is no single best way to combine these two ways of thinking, one technique is to use the D-C-D-C method.
a. Divergent Reasons
Let's say you have a problem with invoices consistently being paid late, and you want to find a solution to improve this. The first thing you need to do is work out why this problem may be happening. Perhaps it is a software problem, or may be it is user error, or it could even be a timing issue. Using divergent thinking, you brainstorm all the possible reasons and note them down.
b. Convergent Reasons
Now you have a list of possible reasons for the problem, you now need to pinpoint the area that needs to be fixed. And you do this in a similar way you might tackle a multiple choice question. The answer may immediately be visible, but if not, you can come up with the best answer by a process of elimination.
The divergent thinking process came up with a list of possible answers to your problem, and the convergent thinking process selects the best answer or answers to the problem.
c. Divergent Solutions
Once you have decided on your reason for the problem it is time to start being creative with the solutions. And as we've seen, divergent thinking is the best way to do this. So the next step would be to brainstorm all the possible solutions to the problem so you end up with a list of ideas that you can take forward to the final stage.
d. Convergent Solution
Finally, the last stage is to take the list of options from step three and decide which solution to concentrate on. And this means that if you have followed the process above, you will end up with the best possible solution to your original problem.
How can you practice divergent thinking?
There are many different ways that you can practice divergent thinking. One way is to try and come up with different scenarios of how your day could go. Or you could try and consider different scenarios for what could happen if you were stranded on a desert island. Another way is to try and come up with a list of different things that you would do if you were to win the lottery.
This exercise will loosen up your brain and train you to think creatively in any scenario. You'll soon find this comes naturally and whenever you are presented with a problem, you will instinctively identify innovative ways to address it.
Everyone encounters difficult decisions throughout life. How do you make the best choice when faced with several options? How can you be sure that you’re not overlooking something important?
The answer is divergent thinking.
Divergent thinking involves exploring multiple options and considering all possible outcomes before making a decision. This process allows you to identify all possible solutions and select the best possible option.
Here are four steps to using divergent thinking to make better decisions:
1. Define the problem
The first step is to clearly define the problem. What needs to be decided? What are the possible options? What are the possible outcomes of each option?
2. Brainstorm solutions
Once the problem has been defined, brainstorm possible solutions. Don’t judge or criticise any ideas – simply generate as many solutions as possible.
3. Evaluate the solutions
Next, evaluate the solutions. Which ones are the most feasible? Which ones have the most potential benefits? Which ones have the fewest potential risks?
4. Make a decision
Finally, make a decision. Choose the solution that has the most potential benefits and the least potential risks.
The process of divergent thinking can seem daunting, but it’s a powerful tool for making better decisions. By exploring all possible solutions, you can be sure that you’re making the best possible choice.