Posted by: janineplusbrianequals | October 26, 2009

decisions, decisions…Convergent and Divergent Thinkers (part 1)

I have an uncle who likes to say, “life is about choices.”

 

That seems to be an accurate way of summing up the experience of life and so I have decided to offer my dear reader(s) some thoughts on choice.

 

There are two kinds of people in this world: those that divide the world into two types of people and those that don’t. Since I am a committed member of the first group I find it very useful to divide the world of decision makers into two kinds.

 

There are convergent thinkers and divergent thinkers. (These are not my own terms, but unfortunately I don’t know who to credit).

 

We can think about these two categories of people in numerous different ways. I particularly appreciate Dylan Hendricks’ elegant and humorous characterization of Black/White thinkers vs Shades of Grey thinkers.

 

Another description I hear regularly is the idea of writing or drawing using the creative, non-critical “right” side of the brain. Here are a couple of examples just for illustration – (I haven’t read nor do I endorse either of these media).

 

Showing up in this dichotomy (whatever it is called) are two parts in a choice making process. Every action we take has numerous choices going into it. These choices involve both divergent and convergent approaches. My goal here is to look at the two processes separately.

 

A convergent thinker is someone who comes to conclusions. He sees the world in terms of factors and answers. His thinking tends naturally to decide between possibilities. He is good at settling, producing, bringing into effect, completion, and contentment.

 

A divergent thinker is someone who comes to solutions. He sees the world in terms of possibilities and questions. His thinking tends naturally to generate multiple solutions around any given question. He is good at exploring, broadening, improving, beginning and creativity.

 

A convergent thinker falls into close-mindedness, idea foreclosure, and staleness. He is likely to think he understands things better than he does, and accept his understanding as the best there is.

 

A divergent thinker falls into paralysis, confusion and depressiveness. He is likely to worry that he doesn’t understand anything and couldn’t possibly move forward or arrive at an adequate understanding.

 

Here are some diagrams (in an effort to keep you reading).

Convergent Thinking

Convergent Thinking

Divergent Thinking

Divergent Thinking

Alright, hopefully you get the idea. No person is actually defined entirely by one or the other of these categories but I think we can fairly accurately see people as leaning more to one side or the other (at a given period in their life). We could call them “rock people” and “water people”. The first promotes stability, the second promotes change.

 

Brian

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Responses

  1. Interesting. I guess I’m divergent coz I’m never confidant in the solutions I come up with. Always worry about the alternatives I missed. Kind of like my love life! 😛

  2. What if you are a convergent thinking with a tendency to synthesis?

    A + B = Answer

  3. re: Derrick’s comment.

    Clearly a synthetic person like you would reject my suggestion that people are only either convergent or divergent. And actually I agree – there is a lot that goes into any decision. I wanted to draw attention to the different purposes of expansive and contractive thinking.

    Aside: (I actually thought of you as a possible convergent thinker and in fact realized that you do tend to synthesize while coming to definite conclusions). But unfortunately, I decided to give synthesis to the divergents.


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