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Divergent thinking and convergent thinking

Creativity & Innovation

We’re being good students (along with 125,000 others) following the latest Coursera MOOC on creativity: Creativity, Innovation and Change offered by Penn State University.

This week, the course looks at divergent thinking & convergent thinking. It’s interesting in that it aims to bust a few myths – so we thought it worth sharing some quotes from the video lecture here:

A psychologist named Guilford is the person who actually came up with the phrases, divergent and convergent thinking…He originally said that divergent thinking was about coming up with multiple solutions, multiple ideas, multiple alternatives. And that convergent thinking was when you narrowed down your choices. Guilford didn’t say that divergent thinking was all about out of the box revolutionary ideas. And he didn’t say that convergent thinking was narrow or uncreative.

People have taken those original definitions and they’ve turned them into something that doesn’t make sense, a myth. That myth says that only certain people use divergent thinking and other people only use convergent thinking. That isn’t what Guilford told us. He says that divergent and convergent thinking are part of the thinking process that everyone uses.

There’s another myth that goes along with that, and that myth is this one that says that divergent thinking is only about the out of the box revolutionary stuff. No. You put those two myths together and you get this compound myth that’s even worse. It says, there are these creative people who do divergent thinking, and these uncreative people who do convergent thinking.

Everyone diverges and converges and we do so in accordance with our creative level and style.

Despite the Coursera website being so badly laid out and text-dense, when you find it, the content is good. We recommend it – after all it costs nothing, and you don’t have to complete all the assignments if you don’t want to. Join up here.

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