Divergent thinking is about perceiving a situation or solving a problem in non-conventional ways. Are you a divergent thinker?
Creativity, as well as intelligence, is a general human feature. All people have a certain level of creativity. Most have medium-level creativity, but only a few people are very creative or lack any creativity. Creativity and the ways in which it can be cultivated becomes a central subject of psychology. Edward De Bono (1967) introduced the term divergent thinking (lateral thinking) and developed the theory of the six thinking hats (white, red, black, yellow, blue and green).
De Bono argued that having divergent thinking, (lateral or creative) means seeing and perceiving a situation in different ways. It means to restructure the old patterns, to escape from the usual and to build new models of thinking.
Divergent thinking is not only about generating new ideas but also triggering conflicts between opposing ideas, between old and new ideas. Someone who thinks this way works through leaps, not through “small steps”; they operate not only with relevant elements but also with the irrelevant ones. Finally, divergent thinking means to allow the spontaneous elements of thought to influence a systematic way of thinking or vice versa.
De Bono also claims that each one of us wears predominantly a certain thinking hat and that the green hat is specific to those who have developed divergent thinking.
Advantages of divergent thinking
- It is a flexible type of thinking that allows you to see a situation from many angles.
- Judgment and self-criticism are ignored while you seek new sources of inspiration and new associations to achieve something.
- The amount of new ideas is much higher than in convergent thinking, and the emphasis is placed on the overall picture of a situation, ideas, and problems.
- The comfort zone is much easier to step out of if you have this type of thinking and you are successfully facing the new challenges in life.
Disadvantages of divergent thinking
- By concentrating on the overall picture, details can be omitted, which can also be important.
- The amount of ideas and solutions counts, and there is a risk of not assessing their quality properly.
- You can lock yourself in the dream without acting on the solutions found.
As seen, creative thinking is by nature associated with divergent thinking because they both are about embracing new ideas and searching for as many solutions as you can. It is easy to see that divergent thinking means openness to new opportunities and a bunch of options that are not seen at first glance, but they are discovered along the way.
We cannot say that divergent thinking is always more beneficial than convergent one because balance is the key. It is best to integrate both approaches and have a flexible attitude.
4 Signs That Indicate You Have Divergent Thinking
1. The best ideas come when you are alone or in the shower
Researchers say that 72% of people have creative shower insights, and being naked under a stream of hot water, leaving your thoughts to roam freely, is one of the best creativity exercises but also an excellent incubator of ideas.
After all, studies claim that there is a strong link between creativity and various solitary activities (dreaming with open eyes, meditation, solitary walks, etc.).
2. You are more creative when you work on your own rather than in groups
No matter how productive we are in the team, nothing compares with work and thought in moments of loneliness.
Studies have shown that the most creative and imaginative networks that are set up at the brain function at optimum capacity when we are alone. Namely, in these moments we are able to engage in what neuropsychologists call it the constructive internal state of mind, a decisive mental state that generates ideas and creativity.
When we are disconnected from the outside world, our brain is able to establish connections, crystallize memories, and process information.
3. You are hungry for knowledge
From a neuroscientific point of view, the link between opening up to new experiences, learning new information and creative thinking has long been confirmed. Exploration, motivation, and learning are related to dopamine neurotransmitter activity, which also facilitates psychological plasticity, exploration and flexible engagement in new activities.
Kaufman and Gregoire, authors of the “Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind,” claim that the tendency to explore in its many forms may be the most important factor in personal development.
4. Strong intuition
Intuition is also a form of creativity. According to a study published in 1992 in the American Psychology journal, unconscious and subconscious processes may be faster and structurally more sophisticated than conscious cognitive processes.
How to develop your divergent thinking?
Take a situation or a problem and write your opinion on it. Then do not be limited and ask yourself questions such as,
- “Why is it so and not different?”
- “How else can I look at this situation?”
- “How many ways can solve this problem?”
Think of a problem, then open a random book and choose 3 words. Write them, then ask yourself “How can I associate these words with my problem and what solutions can I see here?”
When you go through a more difficult time, take two steps back and imagine you are looking at the matter from afar. Now that you have the big picture, what new interpretations and solutions can you see?
Think about a goal and search for as many ideas as possible to accomplish, even if they sound crazy at first.
Take a paper and write down everything that comes to your mind without analyzing it. Just allow your mind to freely express itself.
Remember that everything is possible, which means that there are multiple ways to reach your goal or accomplish your dreams.