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New Ideas and Divergent Thinking

Updated on June 4, 2013

New Ideas Await You

There are always new ideas waiting to be discovered.
There are always new ideas waiting to be discovered. | Source

How to Come Up with New Ideas

How do you get your creative juices flowing so that you can come up with new and innovative ideas?

There are ways to get your mind going so that you can think of different ideas in a short time. It is called divergent thinking. Divergent thinking works by helping you mind to get into a spontaneous mode so that the ideas that pop into your head are generated in a free flowing and random manner. The method behind divergent thinking is to come up with many different ideas about a topic within a short period of time. By breaking a category or topic down to smaller components, you can gain some insight about the different aspects that make up the topic.

In 1967, J.P. Guilford, a psychologist was the first to come up with the terms divergent and convergent thinking. Divergent thinking can sometimes be referred to as lateral thinking, a term created by Edward De Bono.

Coming Up with Innovative Ideas

Divergent Thinking - Convergent Thinking

The idea of divergent thinking is to generate many ideas on a particular subject in order to come up with a solution to the situation. Divergent thinking has everything to do with spontaneous, free flowing ideas that come from non linear thoughts. Our mind does not work in straight linear ways, rather we gain ideas from associations.

Convergent thinking is a way of arriving at the one correct answer to the issues, and follows a more systematized, linear thinking route. Convergent thinking has to do with gathering information and coming to a solution around that data.

Divergent thinking is the opposite. Something triggers our thoughts and we create multiple solutions.

Divergent thinking has to do with being creative, but it is not the same as creativity. Convergent thinking has to do with logical and analytical thinking, but it is not the same as critical thinking.

Divergent thinking is more like a combination of creative and critical thinking. Divergent thinking is mainly focused on idea generation, where we come up with different and new ideas, or alternatives that solve problems or give new variations towards solutions.

Creative and divergent thinking are very important toward coming up with new and innovative ideas.

Ideally divergent thinking leads to convergent thinking. Convergent thinking is a way of putting the many ideas you just came up with back together in an organized and more structured way.

This all starts with brainstorming the topics you want to work on. But before we do that, it is helpful to begin with some self awareness and an analysis about the subject you are working on.

How to Come Up with a New Idea

There are ways to get your creative juices flowing.
There are ways to get your creative juices flowing. | Source

Step by Step to Come Up with New Ideas

Let’s start by asking some important questions about ourselves. Ask yourself ...

  • What are my interests, my hobbies, my likes, my passions?

  • How do I spend most of my day with my activities and my thoughts?

  • What am I good at? What do I know about? What are my areas of expertise?

  • What is on my mind? What bothers me?

  • What do I want from my life? What gives me satisfaction and makes me happy?

  • What would I like to do to change things for myself? What is dissatisfying?

  • What are my values, philosophies, and strongest guiding beliefs? What motivates me?

Now let’s narrow the broad topic we are trying to work on, so that it becomes more focused and specific.

  • Describe the topic

  • What is important about this topic?

  • What are the causes of this topic?

  • What are the results of this topic?

  • Break down the topic into smaller topics or components

  • How has this topic changed from previous

  • Why are these changes important?

  • What are the known factors about this topic?

  • What are the good and bad about this topic and these factors?

  • What suggestions and recommendations do you see right now?

  • What are the different angles you can look at this from?

Convergent Thinking

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Here are some techniques that will help stimulate divergent thinking:

  • brainstorm

  • write an ideas log

  • free flow ideas

  • mind mapping

Brainstorming is a way to generate many ideas using creative and unstructured stimulation. The purpose is have a long unedited list that can go back and be reviewed.

An idea log or writing a journal can create a collection of ideas that can actually become a reference source. Capturing thoughts can be used to develop and set the prewriting stage of ideas.

Letting your ideas flow freely by writing down whatever comes to mind without stopping to edit, proofread, or revise will help generate many thoughts in a short period of time.

Mind mapping puts the ideas you have come up with in a picture or visual map so that you can readily see how they are interrelated. Start by coming up with a central idea. Take that topic and create branches from the main idea. You can keep drawing branches or subtopics to represent different parts of the main topic. This involves convergent and divergent thinking.

Left brained people tend to be more rational, controlling, and analytical. Right brained people are known to be more creative, spontaneous, intuitive, and emotionally expressive. It is thought that the right side of the brain is involved in divergent thinking and the creativity that is needed to come up with new solutions.

Light Bulb Moments

Read more about how we get insight by reading

how we get those light bulb moments

and being a creative thinker

Where Does Insight Come From

Some psychologists believe that individual differences in creativity come from differences in how our free flow thinking work. The more loose conceptual connections we have the more creative we are and the more divergent thinking we can do.

People who think more logically and linearly struggles more with unassociated thoughts and do less free association.

Mark Beeman, a cognitive neuroscientist did a study with John Kounios about insight and where it comes from. The moment before we get an insight, the area in the right temporal lobe of the brain shows a spike in activity on scans. The part of the brain is particularly good at pulling together unrelated information and allows us to look at situations creatively.

Google, the company, is known to put ping pong tables in their lobby to encourage spontaneous thinking.

  • Sleep is significant effect on gaining insight to solve a situation.

  • Humor helps creativity.

  • alcohol and drinking just slightly, not drunk, can help people be more creative.

It is thought by researchers that sleep, humor, and alcohol work because it helps us not to focus on the issue and the solution just comes to us in a sudden insight. By not focusing, the cortex in the brain relaxes and finds less connected associations from the right hemisphere of the brain. Once we relax or get distracted we can look inward and our brain can more readily make random associations and these associations hold the answers we are looking for.

Being in a good mood also increases divergent thinking by helping us to think more openly and broadly and creatively.

Employees who have more fun at work are more effective workers. David Abramis, a psychologist, conducted a survey of 382 people who worked in a variety of jobs at a variety of places. The study showed that having fun at work helped people to feel more job satisfaction, got along better with their co workers and increased their effectiveness at work than people who were satisfied with their jobs but did not have fun.

Are You a Divergent Thinker or a Convergent Thinker

Divergent thinking is a way to come up with new ideas.
Divergent thinking is a way to come up with new ideas. | Source

What Type of Thinker Are You?

Are you more of a divergent thinker or convergent thinker

See results

Divergent Thinking

Divergent thinking is a way of thinking of many different solutions. Brainstorming is one of the techniques that encourages divergent thinking.

Divergent thinking is not a skill, it uses many different sets of skills.

Several characteristics associated with divergent thinking

  • fluency - coming up with many ideas in a short period of time.

  • originality - producing new, fresh, unique and innovative ideas

  • elaboration - building up and embellishing an idea

  • flexibility - looking at a variety of approaches to the issues.

  • multifaceted - coming up with difficult and complex thoughts

  • curiosity - asking questions, probing, searching, looking deeper, and wanting to know more

  • boldness - risk taking, trying new things, being more courageous, adventurous, and daring with the result being that the solutions stand apart

  • conceptualization - using imagination to invent and dream up new ideas that have an aspect of ingenuity to it, or give new alternatives.

  • conceptualization - formulating new ideas and being able to see the big picture the abstract to the practical

  • synthesizing - is the ability to bring unrelated bits of information towards a logical and coherent combination. This is similar to connecting the dots. We take the knowledge we know about one topic and relate to another unrelated topic.

  • concentration - the ability to filter out the outside distractions and focus on what is needed to handle and resolve the task.

  • persistence - continuing to come up with solutions even when faced with obstacles, negativity, and resistance.

  • entrepreneurial - going outside the norm, thinking unconventionally, or going beyond the boundaries that everyone else believes exist

  • intrinsic motivation - being self driven and not relying on others to solve the issue

  • empathizing - the ability to identify and understand someone else’s situation and needs

  • theorizing - coming up with a story, hypothesizing about what might be

  • communication - being able to explain your ideas so that it makes sense to others

  • flow - an effortless and somewhat automatic outpouring of thoughts, while in a state of focused consciousness that let the ideas freely come

The purpose of divergent thinking is to create several different ideas about a subject in a short period of time. When you compartmentalize a topic by breaking it down into small pieces that will give insight about the different aspects about the subject, you can help yourself to come up with new ideas.

Convergent thinking is putting ideas in an organized and structured way.

Through free flowing and spontaneous thoughts, that are more unorganized, divergent thinking can help generate new ideas. As we age, divergent thinking ability deteriorates.


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    • AOkay12 profile image

      AOkay12 3 years ago from Florida

      Great article. It provides some relevant insights into how people think and develop ideas. According to this article, I am probably a "right brain" and divergent thinker. You have inspired me to put more effort into implementing some of the techniques that you mention here, in order to come up with more ideas (brainstorming, mind mapping, etc.). Thanks for sharing this.

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 4 years ago

      Hi Pinto, Thank you for your kind comments. I am glad you enjoyed reading my hub.

    • pinto2011 profile image

      Subhas 4 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Hi toknowinfo! You have touched the cord which we all are struck with. Nice to know the beautifully outlined ideas by you.

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 4 years ago

      Hi Livingsta, Thank you for you kind comments and for sharing my hub.

    • livingsta profile image

      livingsta 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      Great information on the different ways of thinking. This will help people identify the way they think and help them change it for the better. Thank you for sharing this with us. Voted up and sharing!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great suggestions and information. I have never had trouble finding new ideas, but for someone who does, this hub should help. Well done! Have a great day my friend.