Technical Writing is Convergent Writing (Convergent Thinking 6)
Convergent thinking hugely supports the technical writing main goal, which is to converge to a plain communication
All disciplines, processes, and approaches have their value and convenience as they solve specific problems. But when we combine at least two, the result is much more than their sum.
Let’s combine technical writing and convergent thinking to get a new and more powerful tool for managing information.
What’s technical writing?
Technical writing is a writing discipline that involves communicating complex information to those who need it to carry out a specific task or achieve a certain goal. Because of this, technical writing is often defined as “simplifying the complex.”
The core value of technical writing is “simplifying the complex” for an audience that needs to get some specific things done with minimum effort: it’s all about executing a crystal clear set of steps.
Even when technical writing delivers concepts, the communication must be step-by-step and progressively discover details. Readers need to scan the documentation to get its structure quickly. That’s “simplifying the complex:” communicating the structure first, then the high-level concepts, and, eventually, further details.
If you focus on the progression
structure ➜ high-level concepts ➜ details
I’m sure you feel, even before understanding, that it’s about a convergent thinking process:
- Structure: That’s the logical structure of the content that the technical writing delivers.
- High-level concepts: That’s the minimum set of ideas that are the ground of the topic and sit upon the logical structure.
- Details: That’s where things are complex, meaning the intimate texture of the topic.
Technical writing is rooted in a thought process that converges from the overall view to the detail, up to details with the simplest structure.
What’s convergent thinking?
Convergent thinking is a term coined by Joy Paul Guilford as the opposite of divergent thinking. It generally means the ability to give the “correct” answer to standard questions that do not require significant creativity, […]
The main characteristic of convergent thinking is that it’s thinking that gets to the maximum standardization, meaning a list of answers among which to select the correct one. There’s nothing more to invent with convergent thinking – creating is divergent thinking.
Convergent thinking is a fundamental tool in problem-solving as it provides a guide to organizing creativity.
Don’t get me wrong: convergent thinking is not better than divergent thinking, or vice versa. They are like food and drink: each one necessary, none sufficient.
There are many techniques to put in place convergent thinking. I use the parallel thinking of Edward de Bono, but all analysis techniques help. The crucial point is to decompose ideas and trace them back to a list of possibilities from which to select the correct one.
Plain language as a common background
Technical writing and convergent thinking have in common the structure of their language: being plain.
Every statement must be either self-evident, or there must be an easy way to break it down into other self-evident statements. That’s plain language: no implicit assumptions.
When different disciplines have in common their language structure, they inevitably converge, meaning that they reveal themselves as two faces of the same coin.
Technical writing and convergent thinking are both convergent processes aimed at simplicity. And they converge toward each other:
- Technical writing converges toward convergent thinking because the former needs the second one to sharpen the content and simplify it for specific audiences.
- In turn, convergent thinking converges toward technical writing because the former needs the communication tools of the second one to get a practical language that describes its output — the standard questions and the “correct” answer.
Technical writers can live without convergent thinking and vice versa, but they empower each other combined.
Plain language — technical writing side — and plain thinking — convergent thinking side — reveal each other as one face of the same coin, which is communication for deciding. Why do we think? To decide. Why do we communicate? To deliver decisions.
When it comes to decisions, silence intuition and instinct; think convergently and communicate plainly.
Follow me to get the last article of the Convergent Thinking series: What Does Convergent Thinking Teach Us? (Convergent Thinking 7 – The End)
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