Divergent Thinking

January 30, 2018

This post is all about divergent thinking (I may make future posts on convergent thinking, linear thinking and lateral thinking). I have already briefly mentioned divergent thinking on the life skills - creative thinking page: 


Divergent thinking is also something related to creativity. Ken Robinson describes divergent thinking "as an essential capacity for creativity." Divergent thinking is the ability to see lots of possible answers to a question and lots of possible ways of interpreting a question. One classic test of this is the question 'how many uses can you think of for a paperclip?'



In his book 'A Board Game Education', Hinebaugh writes that "In education the importance of developing reason, logic, and problem solving skills is accepted without question. However, developing skills whereby students explore multiple solutions to problems, not just the most obvious solution, and then effectively communicate these alternative solutions to others is a component of the education process that is often overlooked." (p.176)


The popular game 'Taboo' is a great example of a game that requires players to use divergent thinking. In the game, players are given cards where they need to describe the word at the top of the card so that other players will guess it but without using the five 'forbidden' words beneath it. 


According to Wikipedia - "divergent thinking typically occurs in a spontaneous, free-flowing, 'non-linear' manner." The unpredictability of not knowing what card you will draw and what word you will need to describe means that ideas need to be generated on the spot. In addition, the 'forbidden' words require players to explore different options with regard to how they can effectively describe the word so that the other players will guess what it is. The fact that certain words (which are closely connected with the word being described) are not allowed means that the "obvious solution" is quickly ruled out. This can lead to unexpected connections being drawn.



Life skills


Why do we need divergent thinkers? This blog explains that "they are our inventors, innovators, entrepreneurs, and visionaries in all walks of industry, politics, and life."


Bernhard writes that "divergent thinking opens your mind in all directions. This opens possibilities in your life because it leads you to look for options that aren’t necessarily apparent at first... A divergent thinker is looking for options as opposed to choosing among predetermined ones." 


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