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One key - perhaps the key - to the Creative Problem Solving process is the use of both divergent and convergent thinking.

Divergent thinking is wide and free. When you diverge, you generate many options. Divergent thinking is followed by convergent thinking, in which you assess, judge, and strengthen those options, and then decide what to keep and how to proceed.

CPS requires both divergent and convergent thinking, but not at the same time. Trying to do both at once is a mess. If you've ever been in a meeting where people are generating ideas, and shooting them down at the same time, you understand why we need to keep these two thinking modes separate.


Whenever you think convergently, follow these guidelines for best results:

  • Be affirmative
  • Be deliberate
  • Check the objectives
  • Improve ideas
  • Consider novelty

A trained CPS facilitator can help you and your group to use these guidelines, and the convergent thinking tools, to their best advantage.


There are many convergent thinking tools in the universe. CPS is tools agnostic, so any tool you like for convergent thinking (making choices) is likely to work just fine. Below are very brief descriptions of some of the tools we use for convergent thinking.

A quick way to identify the options that stand out. Method: use sticky dots or a pen to mark ("hit") the most interesting, innovative, intriguing, compelling, etc.

A way to grouping like items together, and to remove duplication. Method: after marking hits, group similar or related items together, maximum three per group.

Restating Clusters
Captures the essence of a cluster. Method: For each cluster, try to capture the cluster as one statement. Caution: do not simplify such that you lose the interesting and novel aspects of the individual ideas.

A four-step approach to evaluating an option, idea, solution, etc. "POINt" is an acronym for Pluses, Opportunities, Issues, and New thinking. Method: make a list of the pluses, then of the opportunities (potentials), then the issues (concerns, expressed as problem statements), and finally new thinking on how to overcome the issues.

Card Sort
A way to rank or prioritize when you have many promising options. Method (assuming six options): with each option on a separate card or slip of paper, mark a 6 on your least favorite, and set it aside; of the remaining options, mark a 1 on your favorite, and set it aside; of the remaining options, mark a 5 on your least favorite, and set it aside; continue, marking an item 2, then 4, then 3. This does not make a selection, but does provide a priority or rank. This can also be done with a group, by adding up each person's rank for each item, to know how the group at large prioritizes the options.

Evaluation Matrix
Uses a grid to evaluate options against criteria. Method: on a grid (matrix), list criteria along the top (one per column), and options down the left side (one per row. Select a rating scale (e.g., 1-5, A-B-C, etc.). Then, rate each option against each criteria.

Paired Comparison Analysis
Compares each option against each other option. On a grid, list all options across the top (one per column) and down the left (one per row). Select a rating scale (e.g., 1 = slightly prefer, 2 = moderately prefer, and 3 = greatly prefer), compare each item against each other. Total the scores for each item.


Here are some choices:


When you're ready to talk to us about teaching you this process or facilitating a problem-solving session, just holler.