More and more often, when selecting people for specific team roles or positions, managers pay attention not only to their skills, but also their personality types. Often, already at the recruitment stage, candidates are asked to complete personality tests designed to reveal their motivations, interests and style of interacting with people and situations. Today, we will take a look at convergent and divergent thinking. What are the differences between them and how they can affect your performance? Read on to find out more.
Convergent vs divergent thinking – table of contents:
- What is convergent thinking?
- What is divergent thinking?
- Convergent vs divergent thinking
- Is divergent thinking better than convergent thinking?
- Can you develop divergent thinking?
What is convergent thinking?
Convergent thinking concentrates on finding only one answer to a particular problem or question. In this case, there is no room for ambiguity.Of course, various alternatives are tested during the decision process, but finally it comes down to identifying the single, correct solution.
Characteristics of convergent thinking
A convergent thinker narrows down the possibilities during the process to finally get one option. What are the characteristics of convergent thinkers?
- Speed – converger thinkers act fast. They look for only one solution to the problem and do not wonder if another method would be better. If it proves effective, it will be implemented.
- Logic – convergent thinkers are very logical. They don’t waste time on searching for new solutions or implementing innovative methods. They have a specific, established course of action.
- Accuracy – convergent thinkers follow a set strategy, perceiving it as the only right action.
What is divergent thinking?
One of the buzzwords behind divergent thinking is creative thinking. There is something in it. Divergent thinking is not about being specific at the decision-making stage. Various possibilities, even those seemingly unrelated to the topic, are explored throughout the process.
It is associated with greater freedom, the lack of limitations and the search for new possibilities. In this case, following the well-beaten path is out of the question. Here, each case is treated individually, and different perspectives are taken into account. Divergent thinkers excel in innovative environments where everyone can share their thoughts and ideas that may solve a particular problem. With such a diversity of perspectives, it is easier to come up with an innovative solution.
Characteristics of divergent thinking
Divergent thinking abilities let you create something new and progressive. Apart from being extremely creative, divergent thinkers are assumed to have the following characteristics:
- Curiosity – to follow your own path and explore the undiscovered, it is important to be inquisitive. Divergent thinkers are curious to test new solutions.
- Flexibility – divergent thinkers are able to look at a problem from various perspectives and adjust the solution to the changing situation and new challenges.
- Resourcefulness – divergent thinkers are resourceful and great at brainstorming. Brainstorming sessions let them produce a multitude of potential ideas that can be explored further. It is certainly much more difficult than following the usual patterns, but in the end it can lead to something truly innovative and groundbreaking.
- Willingness to take risks – every divergent thinker is a risk-taker. Creating something new is inextricably connected to accepting risk and being able to manage it.
Convergent vs divergent thinking
First of all, it should be pointed out that these two approaches are completely different, but it’s impossible to say that either of them is better. They vary in practically every aspect. The idea of convergent thinking is to get one specific solution to a problem, without any alternative or a backup plan. Divergent thinking, on the other hand, involves exploring various possibilities and creating innovative ideas.
The situation looks similar when it comes to repeating the applied processes. In the case of convergent thinking, if we come across a problem that is similar to the recently analyzed one, the same methods will be used again. Since they worked then, they will work now as well. The proven method will be enough. As for divergent thinking, each case is a new case. There is always a chance to make some improvements or find a completely new solution. Hence, following the well-beaten path or set procedures is out of the question.
It can be observed then that divergent thinking is a very flexible approach, which can’t be said about convergent thinking. In this case, something is either black or white. There is no room for ambiguity or half-measures here.
An example of solving a problem using different types of thinking
Problem: a broken computer
- Solving a problem by thinking convergently – if a computer breaks down in a company, call a person from the technical department to repair it.
- Solving a problem by thinking divergently – divergent thinkers will use a call to a person from the technical department as a last resort. They will first think about what could have been the cause of the problem, check if it is definitely plugged in, try to reset it, and look for solutions on online forums.
Is divergent thinking better than convergent thinking?
Many people believe that a particular type of thinking will work better in a given branch, e.g. divergent thinking will be ideal in the creative industry and will prove effective in generating ideas. We, on the other hand, assume that it is best to combine both approaches.
Divergent thinking will be perfect at the initial stage of generating ideas. That’s why it seems sensible to introduce a culture of innovation into the corporation and involve different people in the process. Human capital is a huge potential that is often untapped. With diverse team members at your disposal, you can count on various ideas and points of view.
A broad list of ideas generated during the brainstorming session is just the beginning. Convergent thinking will help organize it and adapt it to the current needs. We know that every project has certain limitations, e.g., in terms of budget, a number of people involved or a timeframe. Adapting ideas to these possibilities is a task for a convergent thinker.
Can you develop divergent thinking?
Divergent thinking is a valuable skill that can help you come up with various innovative solutions. However, can you learn to think divergently? Can a convergent thinker become a divergent one? Certainly, it will be easier for some people, and others will have to work a little more on their skills, but it can be done! However, you won’t do without some practice. Check out what you can do to work on your creativity.
Divergent thinking requires you to look at familiar objects or tasks from a completely different perspective. You can practice this skill every day, on everything around you. Try to find new solutions for objects you use on a daily basis and take a fresh look at them.
A good way to practice divergent thinking is to organize a brainstorming session. In a large group of people, it will certainly be easier for you to come up with ideas, especially if there is a highly creative person among the participants. All you have to do is to be open to the process.
If you want to use divergent thinking, don’t evaluate the solution right away. Take a “what if” approach. Remember that in this case you can generate a whole lot of ideas, and the best one may not be so obvious at first glance. To filter ideas, in turn, use a convergent approach.
It will definitely be easier for you to use divergent thinking if you’re a bit of a risk-taker. Try new solutions, even if they seem ineffective at first. Give yourself a chance, and perhaps the result will surprise you.
As you can see, it’s impossible to say which thinking style is better. Ideally, you should be able to strike a balance between the two, use them interchangeably and adapt them to specific situations.
Read also: What is asynchronous communication?
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