By: Sophia Oh | March 21st, 2021

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One of the most important aspects of being an entrepreneur is being able to solve problems. However, not all entrepreneurs understand the two facets of the idea generation process: convergent and divergent thinking. 

Convergent thinking, first coined by American psychologist Joy Paul Guilford,  is the ability to find a concrete solution to standard questions. These are questions that do not involve creativity. Most tasks in school (i.e. multiple choice tests) measure convergent thinking as a representation of intelligence. In fact, standardized tests are notorious for rewarding convergent thinking.

On the other hand, divergent thinking is the ability to explore multiple solutions in order to generate creative ideas. It focuses on finding the most effective answer to problems by considering different possibilities. For instance, brainstorming and free-writing are both exercises that require divergent thinking.

Harvard University Instructor Anne Manning explores the concepts of convergent and divergent thinking in her two-day program Creative Thinking: Innovative Solutions to Complex ChallengesIn the course, Manning expresses her belief that the difference between convergent and divergent thinking is the most fundamental element of creative problem solving and idea generation. Although most working professionals are well-versed in analytical thinking (dissecting problems and making decisions), they are not as good at coming up with novel ideas. Entrepreneurs are unique in that they can combine convergent and divergent thinking skills and create an environment for others to do so as well.

Also, Manning asserts convergent and divergent thinking are two completely different skills. Teams often make the mistake of using convergent and divergent thinking at once, but this is ineffective because it doesn’t allow you to come up with ideas and find the right idea in the same period of time. Teams should instead designate a certain amount of time for divergent thinking only, during which ideas are brainstormed without being judged or held back, and a separate period of time for convergent thinking, where ideas are evaluated and/or ruled out.

 

Distinguishing between convergent and divergent thinking can take you to the next level as an entrepreneur. It gives you the space to both create solutions and find the best solutions by yourself or with teammates. We hope that the Diamond Challenge gives you a chance to express yourself using these skills and that you will apply them to other areas of your life beyond the competition.

For more information about the Diamond Challenge, visit http://diamondchallenge.org/

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Horn Entrepreneurship serves as the University of Delaware’s creative engine for entrepreneurship education and advancement. Built and actively supported by successful entrepreneurs and thought leaders, Horn Entrepreneurship empowers aspiring innovators and entrepreneurs as they pursue new ideas for a better world.

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