Divergent thinking, often referred to as lateral thinking, is the process of creating multiple, unique ideas or solutions to a problem that you are trying to solve. Through spontaneous, free-flowing thinking, divergent thinking requires coming up with many different answers or routes forward.
Divergent thinking can benefit work processes in the following ways:
A divergent thinker will explore all possible solutions to a problem, increasing the likelihood of finding a solution that fits a particular problem perfectly.
By dismissing the first idea, teams are encouraged to think outside the box and exercise their creativity. This encourages teamwork as they compare ideas and collectively work towards one goal, boosting team morale.
When faced with a complex problem, divergent thinking allows management to adapt their plans and processes to find an appropriate new solution, encouraging proactive development as opposed to restrictive reactive thinking.
Too much divergent thinking can lead to endless ideation, and no solutions.
That’s where convergent thinking comes in handy. Convergent thinking organizes and structures new ideas, separating those with worth from those which can be left behind.
Creative problem solving begins with divergent thinking — to collect free-flowing ideas — before converging them so they’re relevant to the issue at hand.
Both stages are critical. The divergent stage pushes you to explore all possible options, while the convergent stage ensures you’ve chosen the most appropriate solutions given the context.