When you are working through a creative challenge, you need to use both divergent and convergent thinking. Divergent thinking involves coming up with all of the possibilities; convergent thinking is when you choose the best option(s). In the Creative Problem Solving process, diverging and converging are a part of each stage and MUST be distinct. If you try to do them both at the same time, you will stifle yourself. For this reason, there are rules for both diverging and converging.

Rules for Diverging

  • defer judgment
  • go for quantity
  • seek wild ideas
  • build on ideas

Most of us can probably see the value in building on ideas, but the other three can make some of us a little…itchy. If you’ve ever listened to someone spout off ideas that made you think, “What a ridiculous idea! That could never work! We already tried that. What is he thinking? I’m 10 steps ahead of this guy! Why are we wasting time on this madness?!” these rules might be hard for you. The truth is, you ARE at least one step ahead of the person rattling off crazy ideas, but that’s not a good thing.

photo by quadrapop

photo by quadrapop

Let’s say you have an opaque jar of 100 marbles. 80 of them are red and 20 are green. You want the green marbles. Really, you want one perfect, beautiful, shiny green marble. Now, you can close your eyes, reach your hand in, and dig around. You can run your fingers over each marble, wondering if it is the one. You can pull a marble out at a time and inspect it and then either put it back or keep it. OR you can dump the whole jar of marbles out in a pile on the floor. Sure, you have a lot of marbles out now; it’s a bit messier, and you’re going to spend some time putting marbles away later, but how many green ones do you see now? How much more likely are you to find the ONE?

The marbles are ideas. The more ideas you have, the more likely you are to have a really good one. The more you produce, the more creative you are going to get. If you try to judge an idea too early, you may return the best “green marble” hoping for a better one, when all you really needed was to polish that one. If you refuse all wild ideas, you’ll probably just end up with an obvious “red marble” that you try to see as green. If you don’t go for quantity, then you are going to just be dealing with maybe 10 marbles, and only 2 of them are green – 18 lovely, green marbles will never see the light of day.

So, it can be a challenge, but when that guy is coming up with those crazy ideas – JOIN HIM! Have fun! Top him! Build off of his ideas! It’s easier to tone down a wild, creative idea than it is to make a boring, obvious one shine. And THEN, once ALL the marbles are out on the floor, that’s when you’ll get to move to converging and choose one (or more!) beautiful marble(s) to polish up and make shine!

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