Putting Divergent Thinking to Work

Divergence matters

Divergent thinking is a precious creative resource. So, why is it more difficult for organizations to harness?

Differentiating your brand depends upon your ability to diverge from the well-beaten path. In other words, you need a talent for seeing new paths where none exist. That’s divergent thinking. 

Divergent thinking is the ability to generate many ideas in response to a problem. 

In contrast, convergent thinking focuses on what is known facts to arrive at a single correct answer to a problem.


Divergent Thinking Graphic

The Convergent Bias

All creativity requires some combination of both divergent and convergent thinking.  One does not work without the other. 

So, why do so many organizations develop a convergent thinking bias? 

Firstly, it’s a natural  human tendency. Nature designs us to use what we know to solve problems efficiently. As a result, we become experts at knowing what already works. This is a skill that is often valuable in the process-focused workplace. However, a fixed mindset can prove an obstacle when you need to blaze your own trail. 


Secondly, it’s about perceived risk. By itself, the ability to diverge doesn’t automatically pay dividends. Sometimes it just gets you lost. You need to diverge meaningfully, and that’s hard. Repeating past successes–or trying–seems less risky.  

Finally, organizations are systemic by nature. That is to say, structure and process are essential. Convergence gets things done. The problem is when the system becomes rigid or too reliant on known quantities. 

When convergent thought comes to dominate a work culture, it stifles innovation. It reduces an organization’s adaptability. Even businesses in creative fields, like experiential entertainment, can fall prey to this tendency. 


The most productive creative cultures strike a balance between divergent and convergent thinking. A balanced mutually beneficial relationship between the two is the key to a fertile creative ecosystem. I recently wrote about creating a culture of divergent thinking for Blooloop. In the piece, I outline 3 principles for boosting the divergent part of your organizational brain. I hope you’ll check it out and share your thoughts!

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