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Divergent Thinking

Divergent thinking is the act of generating many possible ideas to complete a task or to fit a criterion. This is the opposite of convergent thinking which is the act of narrowing down possibilities to one solution. One example of divergent thinking is brainstorming.

Why it helps
Producing a great design, breakthrough, or work of art often means selecting the best ideas. However, selecting the best ideas would be impossible if there are no ideas from which to select. Consequently, the importance of divergent thinking in generating the pool of ideas cannot be overstated. For example, having 100 ideas with 80 percent of them being unusable would generate more viable solutions than having no ideas while never being wrong. Because divergent thinking is the primary means of generating ideas, it is the cornerstone of creativity. This is why the overwhelming majority of creativity improvement tools and techniques are designed to enhance divergent thinking.

How it is done
There are many forms of divergent thinking such as attribute listing, mind mapping, etc. Divergent thinking can also be done individually as well as in a group. Regardless of how it is done, the primary objective is to generate a large number of ideas. Incidentally, divergent thinking can be improved by factors such as viewing the task from many different perspectives, minimizing assumptions, and having a higher level of knowledge about the topic. The truth is that divergent thinking can benefit from any factor which increases the pool of possible ideas. In fact, the quantity of ideas is more important than the quality of ideas with divergent thinking. For this reason, it is best not to judge ideas during the stage of divergent thinking. The judging is best saved for the convergent thinking phase where ideas are whittled down to the best solutions.