DIVERGENT THINKING IN CPS
ABOUT DIVERGENT & CONVERGENT THINKING: WHY BOTH?
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
DIVERGENT THINKING GUIDELINES
Whenever you think divergently, follow these guidelines
for best results:
- Defer judgment
- Strive for quantity
- Seek wild and unusual
- Build on other ideas
A trained CPS facilitator can
help you and your group to use these guidelines, and
the divergent thinking tools, to their best advantage.
DIVERGENT THINKING TOOLS
There are many divergent thinking tools in the universe,
including, perhaps, some you have created yourself. CPS is tools agnostic, so any tool you like for divergent thinking is likely to work just fine. Below
are very brief descriptions of some of the tools
we use for divergent thinking.
The classic idea-generating tool, often misused. Method:
working from one statement or challenge, think, following
the divergent thinking guidelines; every idea is said
out loud and then written down, usually on a flip chart
pad. When the ideas come fast, as they often do, it can
be difficult for the recorder to keep up. Can be used
individually or in groups.
Brainstorming with Post-its
A twist on brainstorming that makes the recording process
easier. Method: each person has a Post-it note pad; every
idea is written on a Post-it, then said out loud. The
facilitator collects the ideas as they are generated,
and sticks them up on a flip chart pad. Having each idea
on a separate sheet makes converging easier.
Like brainstorming, but done quietly. On a standard piece
of paper, draw three rows of three boxes. Each person
starts with one sheet, and a few extras are placed in
a central pile. Each person writes an idea in each box
of the first row (that is, three ideas), then puts the
paper into the center pile, then takes another sheet
from the pile. If that sheet has ideas on it, the person
reads the ideas, then writes three more in the next row,
either building on the existing ideas or adding new ones.
Continue until all the boxes are full.
Questions that help to stretch the thinking in specific ways. SCAMPER is named
as a mnemonic to remember these words: substitute, combine, adapt, modify,
put to other uses, eliminate, rearrange. Method: for each word, ask questions
to spur thinking. For example: What can you substitute for it? What can be
combined with it? What can you subtract? What can you add?
Spur thinking by making connections from an unrelated
image to the current problem. Method: facilitator shows
an image (usually a photograph), and asks participants
to write down 3-5 words suggested by the image. Several
other images are shown, and words written down. Then,
participants are asked to make a direct connection from
the words they have written to the problem at hand.
A way to force novel thinking. Can be used on its own,
or as part of a brainstorming or brainwriting session.
Method: facilitator holds up or points to an object unrelated
to the problem, and asks: "When you look at this (object),
what ideas do you get for solving this problem?"
Mental or actual voyages that take people outside the problem to look for inspiration
elsewhere. There are many variations. One method: participants close their
eyes while the facilitator talks them through a journey to a specific place,
or one of their own imagining. When they open their eyes, they record ideas
that were inspired by the excursion.
Often used when Finding the Question,
to think of the problem statement in new ways. Method:
in the current problem statement (which begins with "How might...",
"How to...", "In what ways might...", or "What might
be all the..."), circle the verb, then generate other
verbs that might replace it. Then, circle the object
or outcome words, and generate possible substitutes.
(In both cases, unusual and off-course are OK.) Mix and
match the responses. Choose the statement that best expresses
A mix-and-match method for generating ideas. Method:
beginning with the problem statement, select the essential
characteristics of the problem, and list those on paper
as column headings. For each column, list a variety
of options. Then, mix and match, choosing one from
each column. What ideas does that combination give
you? Repeat with different combinations.
Why? What's Stopping You?
A deceptively simple approach to identifying the root of
the problem; similar to the more commonly-known "five
whys" approach. Method: begin with a goal, wish or challenge,
and ask: "why do you want this?" To the response, ask
again. When you feel you have arrived at the root of
the problem, ask, "What's stopping you?" Repeating
this process to its logical end can lead to the
creation of a new and more accurate goal/wish/challenge
or a concise problem statement.
Here are some choices:
CONTACT US WHEN YOU ARE READY
When you're ready to
talk to us about teaching you this process or facilitating
a problem-solving session, just holler.