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Features of the development of divergent thinking

With great disappointment, psychologists unanimously note that the tasks that modern traditional education offers to students in 70% of cases require only mechanical reproduction of the learned material. At the same time, psychologists do not question at all the unconditional utility of the knowledge, proven by time and accumulated by the experience of all humanity.

                                               The disappointment is caused by the fact that in such a way schoolchildren develop only one type of thinking, while they need two to make their own decisions. What types of thinking are we talking about here?

About forty years ago, the psychologist J. Guilford suggested distinguishing between convergent and divergent thinking. The thinking with the help of which a person must find the only correct answer to the question he called convergent.

Such thinking is required, for example, if you ask:

• What time is it now?

• How many days, weeks and months are there in a year?

• What is the capital of a country?

• What is written in the job description?

• How to drive?

• How old are you?

• What is the name of your place of work?

Convergent thinking operates:

• historical dates;

• mathematical formulas;

• cooking recipes;

• safety instructions;

and helps us orient ourselves in a uniform, repetitive and predictable life and professional situation.

Convergent thinking is developed due to the ability to investigate the facts thoroughly. In order to use your convergent thinking, it is enough to learn how to consistently ask questions like:

• Who?

• What?

• When?

• Where?

• Why?

For example, for the development of convergent thinking in children, they are offered to answer these questions after reading a book or watching a movie. It is easy to see that convergent thinking is aimed at reproducing the knowledge gained, and the more successful it is, the more accurately this knowledge is learned.

Divergent thinking allows one to choose several relatively equally correct answers. Nowadays diverse and highly turbulent environment requires a person's willingness to increasingly turn to divergent thinking.

Here is the most modest list of situations where decision making based on convergent thinking is obviously not effective:

• finding ways to reduce costs,

• choice of place and way of rest,

• career planning,

• child bringing up,

• relations with the authorities,

• writing an article,

• problem statement,

• personality characteristics,

• use of multi-functional items.

Only divergent thinking here can act as a reliable assistant.

Techniques that develop a divergent mind

So, it is clear that the peculiarities of the development of divergent thinking do not allow us to hope that it will be developed simultaneously with the assimilation of knowledge.

These features include:

• ability to operate with acquired knowledge in a situation of uncertainty,

• skills to generate different approaches to the task,

• understanding that the same problem can be solved in different ways,

• the ability to distinguish tasks with the only correct solution and tasks that allow the choice of the optimal solution from several equally correct ones.

The development of divergent thinking in adults and children, in general, involves the same techniques and methods. For example, the following exercises will be useful for both adults and children.

"If I were you". When solving a problem, try to look at it with the eyes of other people and imagine how these people would solve it. It is important not just to be in a different role, but to understand the difference between your view and the view of those whose role you are currently playing. Let it be different personalities and persons - the characters of your favorite books and films, your relatives and friends, colleagues and rivals. Talking with those who are very different from you, try to follow the logic of his reasoning, to understand why he thinks so. In short words, learn to look at the situation from different points of view and think like another person.

"Professional photographer". If you observe how a tourist and a professional photographer take pictures, then you will certainly be struck by their different attitudes to the first frame. The tourist will choose an interesting view, clicks the shutter of the camera and switches to the search for a new plot. A professional photographer, even finding a good angle, will not be satisfied with the first photo. He will surely change something in the setting of the frame and repeat it, then again something will change and repeat again. And so on until he is completely satisfied with the achieved result.

Try yourself in the role of a professional photographer. Go to the photo session and make each frame only after changing the angle several times. Try to guess which shot would be taken by a tourist who turned out to be in this place, and ignore these angles. Look for something unexpected, fundamentally different from the "tourist" view.


Use the technique of "professional photographer" when you solve any problem. Do not allow yourself to dwell on the first answer that comes to your mind. Continue to “look for the best shot”, tell yourself: “Most likely, this is not the best solution. Perhaps we should continue the search”.

"Organization of information." Since the development of divergent thinking relies on attracting the most diverse information, it makes sense to streamline these information flows in a certain way.

These techniques will help you a lot to find the necessary information quickly:

• clustering,

• typology,

• classification,

• construction of matrices,

• development of cognitive schemes,

• creation of various tables.

For example, if you look at the tools that are used in developing development strategy or marketing strategy of different organizations, then you will be surprised by their diversity:

• Ishikawa diagrams,

• target tree

• task tree

• “5 W - 5 “Why” approach

• BCG matrix,

• “The Five Forces of Porter”,

• risk calculation table,

• Goal decomposition

and many more.

Practice divergent thinking

Divergent thinking is developed, among other things, by the regular practice of addressing it. For effective mental work, it is important to understand and accept the psychological fact that an idea and a judgment have a different nature. The idea was originally born as a weak and fragile assumption, which at the very beginning of its appearance is easy to destroy at the root with the help of a categorical judgment.

That is why it is important to dissolve in time the generation of ideas (the work of our divergent thinking) and the judgment regarding their viability (the work of convergent thinking). That was what American engineer Alan Osborne meant, when he suggested using his famous brainstorming technique for solving extraordinary tasks.

Imagine that you simultaneously open a hot water faucet and a warm water faucet. You know that in this case you will get warm water, and not at the same time two jets flowing from the faucet - hot and cold. In the same way, instead of two streams of hot ideas and cold sober criticism, you get a stream of barely warm ideas and a bit cool criticism.

At the stage of generating ideas, try not to proceed to their evaluation until you recognize that in the process of searching you have exhausted all your mental abilities. The probability of the appearance of the desired solution increases with the number of proposed solutions. In other words, the more you can come up with solutions, the better it is. Our brain is terribly lazy by nature, so it joyfully grasps the first alternative as the best. Do not let your brain deceive you.

Finding and generating solutions only seems to be a creative work and an interesting occupation. In fact, this is hard work, where a suitable option appears only after at least two dozen ideas have been offered. Brainstorming experts are even more categorical, they believe that the first ten ideas, as a rule, do not carry any useful potential.

In real life, convergent and divergent thinking, as a rule, are inextricably linked.

So, to make a decision you will need to make three basic steps:

• Step 1 - fill yourself with the knowledge necessary to solve the problem;

• Step 2 - generate several solutions, then compare them and select the optimal one for the given situation;

• Step 3 - choose the right ways to implement the selected solution.

It is easy to see that the first step involves mainly the work of memory, aimed at reproducing the necessary knowledge, the second involves divergent thinking, and the third relies on the convergent thinking process.

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