5 Tips for Navigating Divergent Thinking Without Shipwrecking in It (Convergent Thinking 3)

Divergent thinking is a risk, and risks must be taken to succeed: They open new possibilities, among which there is the one we call ‘success.’ Divergent thinking creates and explores possibilities.

Luca Vettor
5 min readSep 14, 2023
Photo by BAILEY MAHON on Unsplash

Divergent thinking is like the sea. You need that boundless body of water to navigate, but at the same time, that boundlessness means you can get lost and be destroyed by the waves.

Tip 1: Awareness

It would be best to remember that divergent thinking is crafting possibilities regardless of feasibility.

You must brainstorm without limitations and judgments, but remember that limitations and judgments are for the next step, which is convergent thinking. Never fall in love with possibilities arising from divergent thinking.

As humans, separating different thinking contexts is often challenging. You brainstorm and use any other form of divergent thinking when you have a problem to solve. You might be in a rush to find a solution and feel subtle thinking distinctions as a waste of time; time you don’t have. This is comprehensible but counterproductive.

You must measure your awareness to maintain control of your thinking and avoid shipwrecks. How do we measure awareness? By focusing on boundaries. The first and pivotal boundary is the distinction between divergent and convergent thinking. You can iteratively switch from one to another, but you must go through both with a crystal clear awareness of which of the two you’re facing.

For example, in a meeting, someone comes up with a new idea — divergent thinking in action — and someone else immediately objects: ‘That’s too expensive.’ Those who objected to the new idea acted unaware that it was a new possibility and destroyed it as a possibility of success.

Tip 2: Multiple standpoints

Divergent thinking produces possibilities.

Regardless of their feasibility, possibilities make sense in specific contexts, each with a peculiar standpoint. Be sure to label each option with the context in which it might have application and value.

In divergent thinking, standpoints are crucial because they are the metadata of the produced ideas. That metadata prepares the convergent thinking phase but is not convergent thinking because it labels thoughts still in a brainstorming way.

For example, in a brainstorming meeting, someone comes up with a new idea — divergent thinking in action — about satisfying a not-yet-expressed need of a client. The new need generates other ideas related to this new standpoint, which opens new solutions to meet the client’s not-yet-expressed expectations.

Tip 3: Zero criticism

No idea is good or bad; it’s just a possibility. Focus on the ‘possibility’ word.

‘Possibility’ is about what could happen in the future.

When you brainstorm, you produce ideas based on unverified logic, which is logical nonetheless. Pay attention to the internal sense of your thinking and be consistent with it. Convergent thinking will take care of any checking and verification, but it’s the next step: keep it away from divergent thinking.

For example, in a brainstorming meeting, someone comes up with a new scenario — divergent thinking in action — that could result from a product strategy. This new scenario is not covered in any forecast, and, at first sight, it makes no sense. Yet, there’s no guarantee — zero criticism in action — that it won’t happen, and including it in the strategy discussion nurtures the next phase of the strategy evaluation.

Tip 4: Zero criticism

Yes, twice. Never mix divergent and convergent thinking: they exclude each other. Focus on the ‘mix’ word.

Mixing different types of thinking is missing boundaries among them and losing the awareness we spoke about in tip 1.

For example, in a brainstorming meeting, someone comes up with a new idea — divergent thinking in action — and someone else starts evaluating it. The meeting facilitator stops the evaluation and postpones it to the next convergent thinking phase: never mix the focus on creating ideas and selecting the most convenient one.

Tip 5: Zero criticism

This is the third paragraph on zero criticism when practicing divergent thinking. Why? Because switching criticism off is paramount and never repeated enough.

Tips 3 and 4 highlight that focusing on possibilities and avoiding mixing divergent and convergent thinking is the way to think efficiently. Efficiency is removing waste. When thinking, noise is waste because it hinders concentration, and reaching a goal is a bet without focusing on the right direction.

Think of divergent thinking as the phase of collecting data. Data are not bad or good; it’s intrinsically wrong to evaluate data as is. It’s like asking whether a stone fuels happiness: it makes no sense.

On the other hand, think of convergent thinking as the phase of elaborating and testing data. It might make sense to ask whether a colored little stone can make a kid happy.

Mixing the two phases prevents an idea that does not yet make sense from acquiring sense and becoming a solution.

Conclusion

Navigating divergent thinking is an exercise in which judgment is suspended. At the same time, you can’t deem suspending judgment as an implicit and favorable judgment. Judgments will come in the phase of convergent thinking.

Leverage divergent thinking to explore the space of possibilities you bring to the table of decisions. And never forget that divergent and convergent thinking are the two faces of the same thinking process: they sustain each other.

Coming soon

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Already published in the series

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Luca Vettor

Solopreneur online writer and technical writer. My mission: Do you struggle to understand the software? Stop by! I'm your bridge toward the software!