Convergent thinking occurs when the solution to a problem can be found by applying established rules and logical reasoning. The term convergent thinking was first described by American psychologist Joy Paul Guilford in 1950. The process of convergent thinking involves finding the single best solution to a problem or question amongst many possibilities.
- Understanding convergent thinking
- Four principles of convergent thinking in brainstorming
- Convergent thinking case study
- Key takeaways
- Connected Thinking Frameworks
Understanding convergent thinking
Multiple-choice tests, logic puzzles, text comprehension questions, or simply working out how to use the television remote are all examples of situations where convergent thinking is used.
In each situation, the subject is usually required to resolve, explain, identify, or define.
Though they appear to be separate processes, convergent thinking and divergent thinking occupy opposite ends of the same spectrum. This means some problems may favor either approach or a mixture of both.
Four principles of convergent thinking in brainstorming
While convergent thinking is not typically associated with creativity, this strategy can be used in business contexts when a single solution is favored. With that said, it is useful to keep these four principles in mind:
Use affirmative judgment
The cornerstone of convergent thinking is the ability to evaluate potential solutions by examining their positive aspects and then building on each to make them stronger.
The tendency, when confronted with something new, is to focus on the bad aspects first.
However, the most productive way to brainstorm is to change perceptions and consider the positive aspects of a solution before its limitations.
Keep novelty alive
The careful and selective nature of creative thinking can impede creativity.
Despite intentions to the contrary, decision-makers routinely default to staying within their comfort zones and making choices that are far from innovative.
Again, it is important to focus on the positive aspects of an idea before considering how to minimize risk. Teams should resist the temptation to discard unique, unusual, or high-risk ideas without exploring them further.
The process of convergent thinking requires time and effort.
The team will be required to select the most viable option from a long list of ideas and then refine it, which can be labor-intensive. Persistence is key in ensuring the selection process is rigorous and fair.
Check your objectives
The goals and objectives of the team and organization should always guide the selection process touched on in point three.
Periodically running through the objectives helps the team avoid losing focus.
Convergent thinking case study
Think Company is a software development and experience design company that was founded in 2007 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The company primarily works with large enterprise clients but also well-funded start-ups and non-profits.
The company uses the former to brainstorm ideas and determine how it can help a client’s product become more competitive, but it also uses the latter to solve discrete problems efficiently.
According to the company, convergent thinking is ideal, ”when you need an answer, and you believe you have access to the data and information you need to guide a decision or solution. Convergent thinking typically calls for speed, accuracy, and knowledge on a subject, so it’s best used when the team has access to experts and relevant data.”
What techniques does Think Company use?
Here are some specific techniques Think Company teams use to practice convergent thinking.
Most processes start by grouping together similar ideas and hypotheses.
To organize and categorize, some teams use mapping tools such as Miro and FigJam while others prefer to use the old-fashioned setup of a whiteboard and post-it notes.
Once the first step has been completed, the team must decide which concepts are important and which have the potential to become important later.
In product-design scenarios where features are prioritized for a mobile experience, for example, any desktop capabilities are moved down the importance list.
When Think Company worked with life insurance firm Penn Mutual, it set out to improve the ease of access to vital information for financial professionals.
To uncover the valuable data hidden in the client’s PDFs, the team audited all its documents to identify and then prioritize topics that would feature in a new content library known as Gateway.
This is a technique that enables individuals within a team to participate in the prioritization process irrespective of their preferences or participation style.
Here, the individual is assigned a certain number of dots that can then be used to vote on choices in the list.
Think Company acknowledges that its teams are unable to review copious amounts of data or take action on every possibility.
This convergent thinking technique eliminates ideas or concepts teams cannot pursue because of time, importance, lift, or some other factor.
How does Think Company make decisions?
Think Company is often asked questions by clients that have a single, clear answer.
The company is confident about this fact because its employees have spent years accumulating knowledge about design and technology.
Over time, they have also recognized patterns or commonalities in specific types of goals, decisions, and problems.
In many cases, the user and customer feedback it collects points toward clear design solutions with little ambiguity.
These solutions are based on hard data collected from technology discovery, design validation, or usability studies.
- Convergent thinking occurs when the solution to a problem can be found by applying established rules and logical reasoning. The process involves finding the single best solution to a problem or question amongst many possibilities.
- Convergent thinking differs from divergent thinking, which encourages the practitioner to develop multiple ideas or solutions to a single problem. Both strategies occupy opposite ends of a spectrum, with certain situations favoring a predominant approach or a mixture of the two.
- Convergent thinking and the creative process of brainstorming may not appear a good fit at first glance. However, convergent thinking can yield creative ideas if the team uses affirmative judgment and maintains a sense of novelty. For best results, the team should also be rigorous, persistent, and ensure their solutions align with organizational goals and objectives.
Connected Thinking Frameworks
Other related business frameworks:
- AIDA Model
- Ansoff Matrix
- Business Analysis
- Business Model Canvas
- Business Strategy Frameworks
- Blue Ocean Strategy
- BCG Matrix
- Porter’s Five Forces
- VRIO Framework