lundi 8 novembre 2010

Divergent Thinking

Convergent Thinking is the traditional way of reasoning, taught at early stages in schools. In front of a problem, we consider the first common solutions that cross our mind, then after eliminating by logic one by one, we stop when find the first solution that answers the problem.
At the opposite side to Convergent Thinking, Divergent Thinking focuses on the early stages of considering a problem. First, the problem by itself is thought of in different ways. Then we take all of our time brainstorming all ideas and possible solutions, even if they don't seem feasible or rational at the first site. The more your ideas are numerous, different, unconventional, the more you are thinking in a divergent way. After this phase, we use Convergent thinking and common logical sense to solve the problem.
Divergent thinking is the engine of creativity. As Einstein used to say : "Imagination is more important than knowledge". His divergent thinking led him to the discovery of the general relativity theory. In his approach to light, he imagined himself riding a beam of light, and asked himself what would happen in this case? studies show that divergent thinking is very important within the young people, and disappears progressively with age in the current educational system. The greatest men in our history were those who had developed this ability to think divergently. This can't but remind me of the famous story of the danish physicist Niels Bohr, in which the teacher had asked him in the exam to find a way to measure the height of a building using a barometer. In one of his answers, Niels suggested to give the barometer to the guarder of the building if he tells him the height of it. In another answer, he proposes to throw the barometer from the top of the building and by measuring the time it took it to fall, one can calculate the height of the building. At the end he gave more than 7 amazing answers for a stupid known problem. The full story can be read here.
Divergent thinking can be exercised by different way: Brainstorming deeply and noting all ideas, Keeping a journal that becomes a creative source of ideas, Freewriting in an unconscious stream way, and finally Mind Mapping, a technique I exposed previously in one of my post.

An interesting article on the subject can be found here, and for deeper readings, you can check the books of the American psychologist Joy Paul Guilford.

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