Divergent Thinking – Definition, Strategies, Advantages and Disadvantages

The thought divergent is the process that explores many possible solutions to generate creative ideas, this process is not as simple as convergent thinking, but also it is with him.

The term “divergent” refers to development in different directions, so divergent thinking refers to opening the mind in various directions and trying multiple solutions to a problem.

Also known as lateral thinking, it is similar to brainstorming in that it involves coming up with many different ideas to solve a single problem. Many tests that are used to measure creativity, such as the alternative use test and the incomplete figure test, have been found to measure divergent thinking.

When you use divergent thinking, you are looking for options rather than just choosing from those that are already available, it works best for open problems and involves creativity. Convergent thinking does not depend on creativity, it is helpful in situations where there is only one correct answer and the answer can be discovered by analyzing available stored information. Multiple-choice questions on school tests are examples of this type of thinking.

Divergent thinking strategies

The goal of divergent thinking is to generate many different ideas on a topic quickly. Divergent thinking involves dividing a topic into its various components to obtain information about the various aspects of the topic, it typically occurs spontaneously and fluidly so that ideas are generated in a random and unorganized way.

To start brainstorming potential topics, it helps to engage in self-analysis and topic analysis.


  • Ask the following questions to help brainstorm a list of possible topics.
  • How do I spend my time? What are my activities during a typical day?
  • What do I know? What are my areas of expertise? What am I studying at school?
  • I like? What are my hobbies? What are my interests?
  • What bothers me? What would I like to change in my world or in my life?
  • What are my strongest beliefs, values, and philosophies?

Topic analysis

Ask the following questions to help narrow and refine a broad topic into a specific and focused one. Replace your subject with the word “something.”

  • How would you describe something?
  • What are the causes of that something?
  • What are the effects of that something?
  • What is important about that something?
  • What are the smallest parts that comprise that something?
  • How has something changed? Why are these changes important?
  • What is known and unknown about something?
  • What category of ideas or objects does something belong to?
  • Is there something good or bad? Why?
  • What suggestions or recommendations would you make about something?
  • What are the different aspects of something you can think of?

How does divergent thinking lead to creativity?

As we already mentioned, divergent thinking is the ability to generate many ideas or solutions from a single idea or information. It is believed to be one of the most important factors in creativity.

And yet it is a mostly ignored ability. In school and most workplaces, we are primarily taught and encouraged to practice convergent thinking, which is the ability to take many pieces of details or data and generate a solution.

Consider solving a mathematical equation with many variables or generating a report and action plan for your consulting client.

Most of us receive a lot of training and practice in convergent thinking. Still, very little in divergent thinking, which is a problem because our ability to be creative and generate advanced ideas depends largely on this thinking. Still, if we do not practice and exercise that muscle, we are likely to experience occasional floods of creativity surrounded by major droughts.

What is the relationship between divergent and convergent thinking?

Divergent thinking occurs fluidly and spontaneously, resulting in multiple possible solutions in a short time, this procedure is unorganized and produces unexpected connections. The knowledge and ideas obtained as a result of divergent thinking can be structured using convergent thinking to produce a single, more effective response.

For example, processes like brainstorming, creative thinking, and free writing are parts of divergent thinking applied at the beginning of a problem-solving process. Various solutions produced by the method can be used to rank the best possible answer thereafter.

The most popular techniques used in convergent thinking are knowledge, probabilities, logic, decision-making strategies, and responses evaluated from multiple techniques that are individually analyzed to discover the best possible solution.

Advantages of divergent thinking

  • It is a type of flexible thinking that allows you to see a situation from many angles.
  • Judgment and self-criticism are ignored as you search for the latest sources of inspiration and new partnerships to achieve something.
  • The number of new ideas is much higher than in convergent thinking, and the emphasis is on the overall picture of a situation, ideas, and problems.
  • The comfort zone is much easier to leave if you have this type of thinking and successfully face new life challenges.

Disadvantages of divergent thinking

  • By concentrating on the big picture, details can be left out, which can also be important.
  • The quantity of ideas and solutions counts, and there is a risk of not evaluating their quality adequately.
  • You can lock yourself in the dream without acting on the solutions found.
  • As you can see, creative thinking is naturally associated with divergent thinking because both try to adopt advanced ideas and seek as many solutions as possible. It is easy to see that divergent thinking means openness to new opportunities and a set of options that are not seen at first glance, but are discovered along the way.

We cannot say that divergent thinking is always more beneficial than convergent because balance is the key, it is best to integrate both approaches and have a flexible attitude.

What signs indicate that you have divergent thinking?

Find out if you are a divergent thinker through the following signs:

The best ideas come when you are alone or in the shower

Researchers say that 72% of people have creative ideas about showers, and being naked under a stream of hot water, letting your thoughts roam free, is one of the best creativity exercises but also an excellent idea incubator.

After all, studies claim that there is a strong link between creativity and various solitary activities (dreaming with your eyes open, meditation, solitary walks, etc.).

You are more creative when you work alone than in groups

No matter how productive we are on the team, nothing compares to working and thinking in lonely moments.

Studies have shown that the most creative and imaginative networks established in the brain function at optimal capacity when we are alone. Namely, in these moments we can engage in what neuropsychologists call the constructive inner state of mind, a decisive state of mind that generates ideas and creativity.

When we are disconnected from the outside world, our brains can make connections, crystallize memories, and process information.

You are hungry for knowledge

From a neuroscientific point of view, the link between openness to the latest 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 participation in fresh activities.

Strong intuition

Intuition is also a form of creativity. According to a study published in 1992 in the journal American Psychology, unconscious and subconscious processes can be faster and more structurally sophisticated than conscious cognitive processes.

Guidelines for divergent thinking

  • Postponement of judgment: Postponement of judgment is not the same as no judgment, just say “wait a minute”, and avoid judging ideas as bad or good in the divergent thinking phase.
  • Combine and improve: Use one idea as a springboard for another, build, combine and improve ideas.
  • Look for wild ideas: Stretch to create wild ideas, although these may not work directly, but allow the space to discover extraordinary ideas.
  • Look for options: Take your time and use the tools to generate a long list of possible options.

To facilitate the generation of a long list, set a specific goal such as at least 50 ideas in seven minutes for groups or 30 ideas in 7 minutes if only before moving on to the next step, this sharpens focus and drives change that the brain needs to move is also compatible with “deferral of judgment.”

Right and left brain

We have all heard about how the right hemisphere of the brain is the creative side and the left is the logical side. Therefore, according to this theory, people who use more divergent or lateral thinking will often use the right hemisphere. Well, we have to be careful with this kind of generalization about lateralization or brain dominance because it is actually a very nuanced process.

We cannot see the brain as an entity with clearly separated areas. In fact, when we come up with an idea, be it ingenious, conservative, logical, or highly creative, we use our entire brain. The key is in how we connect one idea to another. The most resourceful people use arboreal thought processes. In other words, they are making connections on both sides of the brain, not just one.

How to improve divergent thinking skills?

We can promote divergent thinking ourselves by integrating it into our daily practice. The following are specific strategies you can use to inspire yourself to think divergent:

Ask questions

Take a situation or problem and write your opinion on it, then don’t limit yourself and ask yourself divergent thinking questions like,

  • “Why is it like this and not different?”
  • “How else can I see this situation?”
  • “How many ways can you solve this problem?”

Three words

Think of a problem, then open a book at random and choose three words, write them down, then ask yourself, “How can I associate these words with my problem, and what solutions can I see here?”

When you are going through a more difficult time, take two steps back and imagine that you are looking at the matter from afar. Now that you have a general idea, what interpretations and solutions can you see?


Think of a goal and come up with as many ideas as possible to achieve, even if it sounds crazy at first.


Take a piece of paper and write down everything that comes to mind without analyzing it, just allow your mind to express itself freely. Remember that anything is possible, which means there are multiple ways to reach your goal or achieve your dreams.

Daily headlines

On your way home from work, or sometime in the night, imagine your day was a news item in the New York Times. Take a few minutes to think about the main events and story arcs of your day, key players and characters, points of drama or conflict, etc.

So ask yourself: what would the title be? Try to create at least three different headlines each day.

Test items

When we read articles, we employ a great deal of convergent thinking, whether we seek the big idea or carry it, or we adapt the entire article to a pre-existing mental category that we have (for example: tips for sleeping).

But reading articles online is actually a great opportunity to practice divergent thinking, all you have to do is challenge or question the conclusion of the article (or some aspect of the conclusion) by asking a question that you would like to ask the author.

For example, yesterday I was reading an interesting article about the importance of letting go of our past selves to continue growing and seeking new experiences and ideas. That’s a compelling idea that makes a lot of intuitive sense.

Georgia Tarrant
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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.