Articles: Divergent and Convergent Thinking

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From the article: How to Understand Divergent Thinking and Convergent Thinking Michael J. Motta /voices.yahoo.com:

Convergent thinking and divergent thinking might sound complicated on the surface, and they can be when practiced, but as concepts they are fairly simple. Both styles of thought are employed in problem solving, and each may complement the other. In this article you will learn the difference between convergent thinking and divergent thinking, and also how the two types may best complement each other.

1. Understand Convergent Thinking

This is perhaps the more predominant style of thinking in contemporary technological society. In convergent thought, we locate a problem at the “center” of our focus and then gather peripheral resources to bear down on the problem. So then our resources “converge” on the problem. Often times with convergent thinking, there is a single best solution that is sought. An example of convergent thinking might involve taking a multiple choice test in which there is a single “correct” answer. The test-taker brings knowledge from outside of the problem (perhaps learned in a course) and converges it all onto the problem in order to choose the correct answer.

“The deductive logic that the fictional character Sherlock Holmes used is a good convergent thinking example. Gathering various tidbits of facts and data he was able to put the pieces of a puzzle together and come up with a logical answer to the question: Who done it?” – From the article: Convergent Thinking,  Chuck Clayton /articlecity.com

2. Understand Divergent Thinking

Divergent thinking involves some stimulus, which can take the form of a problem, and we can locate this at the center, as we did with convergent thinking above. However, the procedure is different. Rather than gathering information and converging it on the central problem, we branch off (diverge) and shoot for novel ideas, new perspectives and creativity. Instead of a single correct answer, there may be a whole host of possibilities. An example of using divergent thinking might involve taking an open-ended test that asks how many uses one can imagine for various (often mundane) objects. What can you do with a pencil? A string? A rock?

“Einstein was a strong divergent thinker. He asked simple questions and then did mental exercises to solve problems. For example, as a young man Einstein asked himself what it would be like to ride on a beam of light. It took him many years of thought experiments, however the answer helped him develop the special theory of relativity. Thought experiments are imagined scenarios to understand the way things are.” – From the article: Convergent Thinking,  Chuck Clayton /articlecity.com

“Divergent thinking opens the imagination to all possibilities, while convergent thinking analyzes and chooses from among those possibilities. In a sense, divergent and convergent thinking are the Yin and Yang of creative problem solving. Neither is superior to the other – simply more appropriate for the task at hand.” – From the article: The Power of Divergent and Convergent Thinking – Guide Your Group’s Thinking Process to New Heights By Keith Harmeyer /ezinearticles.com

 

“In their book Breakpoint and Beyond, George Land and Beth Jarman describe a longitudinal study they conducted on 1,600 kindergarden children aged three to five. They gave them eight tests on divergent thinking and an astonishing 98 per cent of the children scored within the creative genius category.

Five years later, they re-tested the same children, now aged eight to 10 and only 32 per cent scored in the creative genius category. Five years later only 10 per cent of the children scored in this category. In tests of over 200,000 adults over 25, only two per cent scored enough to be classified as creative geniuses.

Divergent thinking tests measure an individual’s ability to generate multiple approaches to solving a problem. The tests typically use simple questions such as: what are the uses for a flower pot?

An average person would have 10 to 15 answers to this question. A genius of divergent thinking would come up with a hundred possible answers, and they do this by changing the concepts of already existing thinking – can the flower pot be 10 metres wide, or can it be made of rubber, and so forth.

So what really happens with the universal mental capability to think divergently? What happened to those 160,000 children during their school years?

The classic school model encourages students to adopt fixed mental models of how things work, discouraging creative thinking and problem solving. Mastering other people’s mental models seems to kill an individual’s ability to think divergently and wonder creatively.

We are all born with this capacity to think creatively but duringthe years of schooling, this capability deteriorates drastically.

Images: ddpavumba, samuiblue /freedigitalphotos.net

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