• The O'Briant Group

Divergent Thinking and Why It Matters

The terms “divergent thinking” and “convergent thinking” have become widely used lately — but these aren’t new concepts. They were framed decades ago by Joy Paul Guilford, a psychology professor who did much to advance the study of human creativity.

A bold and original researcher in his own right, Guilford also exerted significant influence over postwar academic psychology as president of the American Psychological Association. In a hugely influential 1950 presidential address to the APA, Guilford admonished his colleagues for their lack of focus on human creativity, telling them that “the neglect of this subject ... is appalling.” Thankfully, they listened as he challenged them to take the topic more seriously. Today, Guilford is recognized as the father of modern creativity research, a thriving interdisciplinary field that has generated far-reaching insights into how the creative mind works.

Fluency, Flexibility, and Originality of Ideas

Guilford’s research proposed a strong association between creativity and what he called divergent thinking. He characterized this style of thought by fluency, or the capacity to generate many ideas quickly; flexibility, or the ability to see many different possible approaches to a problem; originality, or the aptitude to generate new and unexpected ideas; and elaboration, the skill involved in moving an idea from a bare-bones concept to a detailed plan. Researchers since Guilford agree that divergent thinking provides the basis for all human creative endeavor. And yet divergent thinking is often neglected in our schools, businesses, and government.

Creative Thinkers Are Business Leaders

Many organizational leaders today have growing appreciation for creative thinkers’ contributions to innovation, design, and organizational growth. Creatives are assuming significant leadership roles in organizations, as when British designer Jony Ive helped propel Apple past a $1 trillion market valuation. Most organizations have many people trained in convergent thinking, but leaders are increasingly recognizing the need for more “creative types”—people who can devise original new products, ideas, and solutions.

Enhance Your Organization's Creativity with O'Briant Group

The O’Briant Group specializes in finding ways to retool our brains to become more creative. To that end, we work with high-profile organizations to design training programs that are scientifically proven to enhance creativity among existing personnel. We recently produced a short animated video showing how creative thinking can turbocharge innovation and transform organizations — view it below! And please reach out to ask what the O’Briant group can do for you or your organization.

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