Divergent Thinking

The secret to creating new ideas is to separate your divergent thinking from your convergent thinking. This means generating lots and lots of options before you evaluate them. Such brainstorming techniques are used during divergent thinking.

Both Osborn and Parnes note the importance of removing the barriers to divergent thinking in their book (Visionizing) . They suggest that adverse criticism is taboo, free-wheeling is desirable, quantity breeds quality, and combinations and improvement are sought.

Guidelines for Divergent Thinking

  • Defer Judgment – Deferring judgment isn’t the same as having no judgment. It just says “hold off for a while”. Avoid judging ideas as either bad or good in the divergent-thinking phase.
  • Combine and Build – Use one idea as a springboard for another. Build, combine, and improve ideas.
  • Seek Wild Ideas – Stretch to create wild ideas. While these may not work directly, getting way outside the box allows the space to discover extraordinary ideas.
  • Go for Quantity – Take the time necessary and use the tools in this guide to generate a long list of potential options.

To make it easier to generate a long list, set a concrete goal such as at least 50 ideas in seven minutes for groups or 30 ideas in 7 minutes if solo before going to the next step. This sharpens focus and prompts the changes the brain needs to get moving. It also supports “deferring judgment.”