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Adopt a New Way of Thinking

Did you know that there are two different ways of thinking: divergent and convergent? Neither did I until I picked up a preview of Paul Sloane’s new book entitled ‘How to Be A Brilliant Thinker’.

Sloane explains that ‘convergent thinking’ is our normal state, which involves examining, criticising and analysing a concept and its consequences or outcomes when we hear it. Too many of us use and rely on this in everyday life, which has been shown in an experiment by psychologist Wason (I attempted to explain this in this blog post however I don’t believe I can put it any simpler than in the book chapter!). The experiment basically showed that students had a set of beliefs and assumptions, and we look for evidence to confirm these all the time instead of questioning them. For example, if we have a belief that all squirrels are grey we are more likely to go out and find more squirrels that are grey (and confirm our belief) rather than looking for squirrels that are different colours.

‘Divergent thinking’ on the other hand is more of a spread of ideas. This involves stretching our imagination and making wild, seemingly unrelated connections between two ideas. It’s basically us accepting that in fact there may be squirrels of a different colour rather than believing that only grey squirrels exist. It allows us to use our imagination to explore all sorts of new possibilities.

I felt that the first chapter of the book was very interesting and I enjoyed how he included elements (although rather complex) of cognitive psychology, science and music examples to illustrate his points however I do feel it could have been a lot sharper and more concise.

Now that I know about these different types of thinking, I am looking forward to borrowing the book out of the library and learning about how I can adopt divergent thinking in everyday life.

- Kirsty Russell

'How To Be a Brilliant Thinker: Exercise Your Mind and Find Creative Solutions'
by Paul Sloane
Published by Kogan Page (3rd Jan 2010)
ISBN-10: 0749455063
ISBN-13: 978-0749455064
Picture:  A participant at a workshop exploring divergent thinking by drawing with a marker pen on a flipchart, with thanks to Chris_Corrigan for publishing on Flickr under a creative comms license with some right reserved.

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  1. Jon Harvey said...

    I have always liked the difference between deductive and inductive problem solving. Deductive starts with the problem and seeks to unpack the reasons why it is happening as a method for solving it. Inductive problem solving on the other hand starts with a solution and explores whether it could fit the problem.

  2. Innovation Unit said...

    That's a great way of differentiating between the two, I'm going to bear that in mind in case it comes up in the future ;) Thank you for the blog comment Jon.


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