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Divergent and Convergent Thinking Leaders

Most often we find divergent and convergent thinking leaders in an organization. Easily they can be recognized by the way they handle situations and decision making. For us to understand these types of leaders, let us learn the meaning of divergent and convergent thinking.

In layman’s language, divergent thinking is like brainstorming and occurs spontaneously and in a free-flowing manner. Imagination is put to the task by letting ideas out which are evaluated during the process. Multiple solutions are arrived at in a short amount of time. After the process of divergent thinking has been done, ideas and solutions are organized and structured using convergent thinking.

Convergent thinking puts the different ideas in a more organized, structured, and understandable format. It is essential in the outlining and organizing process.  It focuses on a single, well-thought answer to a problem or, most often, the correct solution that will aid in the formulation of decision-making strategies.

Based on our understanding of the foregoing definition, let us say that a divergent thinking leader, then, is one who defers judgment while looking for and accepting diverse ideas and possible solutions. A convergent thinking leader, on the other hand, uses critical thinking in problem-solving using standards or probabilities to make judgments and decisions. He is sure to arrive at the one best solution and answer to the problem at hand most of the time.

Let us consider contrasting these two types of thinking leaders in an organization meeting. The divergent thinking leader heads off in any direction and deliberately diverges from the conventional or standard method. He does not criticize nor judge the flow but let his team explore possibilities. The convergent thinking leader tries to narrow down options to more preferred choices. He analyzes, criticizes, reasons, argues, and eliminates less attractive options to come up with the most applicable solution.  The best way to have a combination of these thinking styles is first, allow the divergent style to proceed in the generation of ideas just to see where they lead. Second, use the convergent style to evaluate the ideas against agreed criteria to select the best option to adopt. This is a workable procedure. But if they are to be mixed, most often the divergent leader’s ideas will often be eliminated and the convergent leader’s most analyzed and critically studied option will have the advantage. Any boardroom scenario or huddle meeting must already set the thinking style to be used for its organization to be agiler and attuned to progressive thinking. Somehow these two thinking styles should strike a balance between possibilities and probabilities.

Wikipedia states that convergent thinking is often used in conjunction with divergent thinking. These two kinds of thinking are essential to creative problem solving and complement each other if the hierarchy of use is followed. Divergent thinking is more to the casting and capture of creative ideas while convergent thinking is on the selection and harvesting of the very best of ideas.

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