Our minds naturally flow in two useful patterns. Sometimes thoughts open up and imagination diverges outward. We call this pattern Divergent Thinking. Other times our thinking patterns converge into a distillation process where one or two viable options appear. This is called Convergent Thinking.
Consider these patterns as the Yin and Yang of your natural ability to solve problems, think creatively, narrow down options and make decisions. We use Divergent Thinking when a multi-directional, expansive, broad idea-storming exercise is needed. One in which we generate many fresh, varied and even unusual ideas.
We utilize Convergent Thinking to then evaluate the merits of our ideas based on a pre-established criteria or context. For example, maybe we’re trying to determine which direction to go or how to solve a problem. This contextual framework supports Convergent Thinking to harvest from the brain’s storm of abundance. Convergent Thinking narrows the scope of ideas and helps us create solutions or determine direction.
In effect, Divergent Thinking helps us get all the ideas out on the table. Convergent Thinking helps us sort through and find the most relevant and profitable combinations or singular choices. No matter if you’re planning a day, a project or trying to decide which vacation to take, using Divergent Thinking then Convergent Thinking can provide you with clarity.
Here’s a simple exercise I use to plan out my day. You’ll notice I start with Divergent Thinking to get all the ideas out, then I move to Convergent Thinking. In this case, the Convergent context is: What is most critical (decisively important) for me to accomplish today?
In this demo, I use sticky notes to clarify what is decisively the most important set of tasks for my day. You can use 3×5 cards, a thought-map, scraps of paper, or any other tool which can be manipulated and sorted once the brain-storming is complete. Here’s a list of the steps to follow as you visually think your way to clarity using Divergent then Convergent Thinking:
Step One: Determine the context. What are you working with? Are you trying to plan a vacation, are you deciding who to date, or do you need to think out all the parts of a project?
Step Two: Brainstorm all the ideas you can.
Step Three: Use a framework to sort out your ideas or a set of criteria. Review the Today and Not Today video again. Notice how I use categories to assist the Convergent process.
Feel free to reach out for more ideas on how to visually think your way to clarity and creative solutions. You can follow us on instagram or facebook and you can subscribe to our newsletter. You’re also welcome to fill out an intake form is you sense coaching for a few months on this topic would be useful.