Divergent and Convergent Thinking

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Created By N. Zimmermann

The two divergent and convergent thinking modes are typically interplaying in creative learning. As they are opposite to each other facilitation needs to ensure a continuous interplay between them in order to increase creative competence of the learners.
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Divergent Thinking: Thinking in Different Directions

Exploring new and original ideas about a topic and drawing inspiration from the ideas or action of others leads to a colorful bouquet of opportunities that people need first for reasoning, and then for using these opportunities as material for creativity at a later stage. It enables participants to

  • collect material for later deductive reasoning
  • be mentally open for new experience
  • gain inspiration

For example, divergent thinking can be encouraged by:

  • Allowing participants to get into the flow
  • Unleashing participants' associative potential
  • Providing opportunities for different sources of inspiration.
  • Expression through diverse active cultural activities, such as dancing, performing, music, or drawing
  • Encouraging and practicing non-conformist and unconventional ways of thinking

Convergent Thinking: Narrowing your Thinking

To enable learners' creative potential, the learning process should also encompass activities which challenge learners' capacities for convergence - evaluating, selecting, reasoning. A popular, but misleading, understanding of facilitating creative processes assumes that the process ends with a bouquet of ideas.

How many flipcharts and posters were filled with inspiring thoughts only to be forgotten one week after the training or workshop ended? Convergent thinking goes one step further. It enables participants to:

  • Evaluate and organize impressions and insights
  • Follow a goal and finalize processes
  • Deepen their understanding of a certain topic or process

Facilitators might support this by:

  • Using methods to select, order and re-arrange knowledge
  • Confronting a group with dilemmas and letting them choose between several options
  • Using tasks for prioritizing
  • Developing skills for reflective observation of one’s activities.

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N. Zimmermann, E. Leondieva

Creativity

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