Divergent thinking

Professional Skills and Career Development

Divergent thinking is a method of thinking, which implies a creative approach and the search for several solutions for one task. In this case, the decisions are equivalent in the correctness and compliance with the same object. This type of thinking is based on imagination and creativity, it implies the ability to think in breadth and see the various properties of the object.

This type of thinking is the opposite concept of “Convergent Thinking”, in which the mind concentrates on one solution.

History of the concept

For the first time, the term “divergent thinking” was introduced by Joy Guildford, an American psychologist who researched the human mind and intellect. Guildford tried to build a model of intelligence that was multidimensional and included 3 dimensions (content, operations, results of thinking), which in turn were divided into variables. Convergent and divergent thinking was, according to his model, the variables of operations, that is, one of the dimensions of intelligence.

Suggesting two new types of thinking, Guilford departed from the classical division into an inductive one (solving problems by deducing a general rule based on particular observations), and deductive (logical) thinking.

The development of Guildford’s theory was continued by other psychologists: Taylor, Torrance, Grubber. They more clearly formed the very notion of divergence, established the criteria for its identification, established that this type of thinking allows a person to create non-standard ideas, hypotheses, classification and grouping of information received.

Criteria of divergence

  • Fluency (number of decisions that occur within a certain time).
  • Originality (solutions must be non-standard).
  • Sensitivity or flexibility (the ability to switch from one task to another).
  • Imaging (thinking with symbols, images, associations).
  • Responsibility or accuracy (the sequence of the thought process and the choice as a result of a suitable, adequate solution).

Divergent thinking consists of unorganized thoughts and ideas, so it cannot be measured by standard, generally accepted methods. This Creative thinking is not related to the level of knowledge and logic. A person can have poor IQ performance, but at the same time he will have very highly developed Creative thinking. This method of thinking is associated with the activity of cognitive processes.

Methods for assessing of divergent thinking

In order to assess the level of development of this type of human thinking, creative tasks and tests with unexpected answers or without them are used. They can be arithmetic, textual, verbal or graphic (for example, it is necessary to finish the drawing, giving its plot as much as possible non-standard direction).

Did you know

Here is a simple test for creativity, which was invented by the father of the concept of “divergent thinking” by Joel Guildford: In 3 minutes you need to come up with as many options for using paper clips as possible, you can write up the invented options briefly. Then calculate how many options you got:

  • Less than 10 – the level of creativity below the average;
  • 10 – 12 – medium level;
  • 12-20 – good level;
  • More than 20 – high level of creativity.

Methods of divergent thinking:

  • Brainstorm.

This method appeared in 1953 and is currently widely used to find solutions to creative and other tasks in many companies. Its meaning is that the participants of the brainstorm (optimally from 4 to 10 people) throw ideas related to the solution of the problem and then choose the most suitable ones from them. The basic principle of brainstorm: at the stage of generating ideas, none of the participants give them an assessment, a moderator is identified, which writes down absolutely all the ideas, even those that seem most unreal. There should be as many ideas as possible, the main task of the participants is not to be afraid of expressing their opinions, no matter how absurd they are. At the end of the brainstorm, on the basis of the authoritative opinion of the external expert, the best ideas are chosen which will be developing individually by those responsible for the task.

For brainstorm to be the most effective, all participants need to be prepared beforehand – to study information on the topic deeper, to think it over and, possibly, to come up with several ideas in advance.

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At the beginning of the brainstorm, the moderator would better set out the task briefly once again, step by step, in order to avoid misunderstanding among the participants.

If there is a feeling that the brainstorm is hard and the ideas are almost exhausted, you can attract people from outside, who may not even be aware of the topic. This will help to pour fresh ideas into the discussion.

  • Creating a memory map.

This method is used to more quickly understand and memorize a large number of diverse information of one topic (for example, history, mathematics, chemistry) and allows you to place all the information about the task on one sheet. Mapping memory helps to capture key information points, better see the relationship between objects, evaluate information from different points of view, restore in memory and reproduce information after a while, better understand the abstract material.

The map is created from the general to the special, that is, first the main subject of the task is displayed in the center of the sheet (the main topic), then lines that signify the main features of the given object are lined from them; the lines that are attributing their properties and so on are lined from them. The image also uses geometric shapes, arrows, abstract images, convenient and understandable for who will use the map.

Information will be better absorbed if, when creating memory cards, use pens or markers of different colors.

Memory cards are used in various areas and for solving very diverse tasks: preparing for a lecture, exam, presentation, public speech and so on.

  • Method of focal objects.

This divergent method involves finding new solutions by combining the main object of the problem with the properties of randomly selected objects.

First, you need to select the main object of the task, which will be thought of additional properties, then select several random objects (the more, the better, preferably from 4 to 10). For random objects, characteristic properties are invented and written, which are then transferred to the main object. As a result, new interesting and creative combinations of the main object and new properties are derived, borrowed from other concepts. The most successful of these combinations are thought out and developed.


Object – Soap.

Random objects:

Grass (fresh, juicy, bright);

Rain (strong, invigorating, tropical);

Result: The soap is fresh, invigorating, bright, tropical, strong.

The method of focal objects is often used in advertising, for example, to create a Unique Trade Proposal (UTP).

  • Bloom’s Camomile.

This is a simple method of understanding and assimilating information, by drawing up on its basis questions of different levels and answers to them. American psychologist Benjamin Bloom created a convenient and clear classification of questions:

  1. Simple questions (check general knowledge of a task or text and imply clear unambiguous answers).
  2. Clarifying questions (define the understanding of the task and require answers “yes” or “no”).
  3. Explanatory questions (used for the analysis of information, usually begin with the word “Why” and imply a detailed answer based on the cause-effect relationship, a new one, not containing the information mentioned earlier).
  4. Creative questions (given in the form of a forecast, a fantasy or a sentence, contain a particle “would” and imply a generalization of the available information).
  5. Evaluation questions (help to understand the assessment of the facts and phenomena mentioned in the problem).
  6. Practical issues (aimed at applying the information received, on conclusions and searching for the relationship between theory and practice).

Development of divergent thinking

There are many simple exercises aimed at developing creative thinking:

  1. Compiling a list of words that match the specified criteria. For example, those that end in “I”, start with “an” or consist of an equal number of letters.
  2. The choice of any word, for example, “Sun” and compilation of each of its letters of a separate sentence. It will be even more effective if these sentences are combined in meaning into one general story.
  3. Inventing unusual ways of using ordinary objects.
  4. Visual exercise: drawing images from paper geometric shapes, different in size.
  5. Finding as many common features as possible for a pair of completely different objects (Cow – skates)
  6. Creating instructions for any unusual object or action.
  7. Search for unusual reasons for ordinary situations (The dog ran along the street in one direction, then stopped, turned abruptly)
  8. Inventing the story, relying on one non-coherent set of words (Valenok (felt boot), Kitchen, Summer, Cat, Building).
  9. Inventing exotic names. A very simple and fun exercise, the essence of which is to come up with non-existent names, both for men and for women.
  10. Solving the riddles of puzzles. They can be both textual and graphic.

All over the world, graphic puzzles are known as Droodle and the author of this trend is the comic writer Roger Price. Riddles were very popular in the middle of the last century and now again become interesting to the audience. The Drood is a laconic drawing on which it is impossible to determine exactly what is depicted on it and the more you come up with the options, the better. Take advantage of our riddles for divergent thinking training.

  1. 5 days of Dreaming. A very pleasant exercise for training creative thinking, associated with inventing within 5 days of their desires associated with a particular sphere of life.
  • day 1 – dreams related to personal life;
  • day 2 – career, work;
  • day 3 – family;
  • day 4 – dreams related to new knowledge and skills;
  • day 5 – global dreams concerning your city, country, planet in general.
  •  “For me, creativity is not just a creative act, it’s a way of life. Creativity requires inner freedom, the desire to take risks and the ability to exist in chaos. Therefore, creativity does not begin with practical methods, but with a worldview. I do not think that this way of life suits everyone, but not everyone can become a Jedi. “Lutz I.

Divergent thinking is the foundation of creativity, therefore, developing it, you improve your creative potential and ability to think outside the box.

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