Skip main navigation

What is Divergent Thinking?

Divergent thinking is often identified in different visual representation of the design process, together with convergent thinking. In the below video from Harvard University, Anne Manning runs us through the difference between divergent and convergent thinking.
diverging paths
© CQUniversity 2021

In terms of creativity and coming up with original and novel ideas, divergent thinking is the key. It is easier for some people than others, but it is essential.

Divergent Thinking vs Convergent Thinking

Divergent thinking is often identified in different visual representation of the design process, together with convergent thinking. In the below video from Harvard University, Anne Manning runs us through the difference between divergent and convergent thinking.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

Divergent Thinking Breeds Ideas

This is where you will draw from all over your space of possibilities. It is often linked to the ideation phase in a design process. Convergent is more linked to fixation and when you need more inhibitive control and apply critical thinking to assess ideas and make informed choices based on what can work (the verification stage).

Onarheim and Friis-Olivarius (2013) identify that introducing the neuroscientific principles identified earlier, people will improve their divergent thinking skills. It seems like if you understand what you need the brain to do, it is easier for the brain to do it.

What is Divergent Thinking?

Divergent thinking is thinking that opens our minds and seeks to explore many different ideas. It searches for remote associations.

We can say it is thinking that is out of the box. It is also the type of processing that studies in neuroscience have focused on because it is the most important processing for originality. We need this to be ‘successful’ in the brick text and come up with many new usages of a brick.

If we want divergent thinking, we need to make sure we can tap into the brain processes that will enable us to come up with many ideas and be aware what brain processes may hinder this.

Divergent Thinking for New Possibilies

Instead we now know that you want to encourage close or remote association and priming (new associations). You want people to challenge their assumptions and see new possibilities. This is the type of thinking that will come up with ideas that can be original and innovative.

To do this, you need to make sure you have spent enough time in preparation, learn about the challenge or problem at hand and then approach the task in a playful way.

© CQUniversity 2021
This article is from the free online

Unlocking The Creative Brain: Develop and Teach Skills For Creative Thinking

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education