What is convergent thinking? (Concepts and advantages)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 8 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Convergent thinking is an excellent method for determining the best workable solution for many alternatives when given a task. Addressing a challenge within the framework of current information and narrowing down the solution based on logical inference is part of the convergent thinking approach. Convergent thinking is essential for business leaders who want to make timely decisions by translating concepts into actual activities based on pre-defined criteria. In this article, we answer the question 'What is convergent thinking?', compare it to divergent thinking, explain the concepts and discuss some areas where it's applicable.

Related: Why critical thinking is important plus definition and tips

What is convergent thinking?

Understanding convergent thinking may help you identify an optimal solution to a challenge by following established and logical procedures. In convergent thinking, responses are either correct or erroneous. Convergent thinking can reduce the number of alternative responses by methodically analysing all viable options. This type of thinking helps you find the best answer by weighing each response choice against authentic constraints and preset criteria.

Convergent thinking is also defined as vertical, critical, linear or analytical thinking. Convergent thinking combines all available data and analyses information logically to arrive at the best ultimate result. The primary purpose of convergent thinking is to find a cohesive, proven solution to any challenge. Speed, reason and precision are values you can use in finding solutions by using convergent thinking.

Differences between convergent and divergent thinking

You can use the method for solving a challenge anywhere in the convergent or divergent range. Some challenges may require convergent thinking, while others use divergent reasoning. Divergent reasoning seeks solutions from all directions, whereas convergent thinking focuses on the best alternative.

The following are the main differences between divergent and convergent thinking:

  • The direction: Divergent thinking spreads outwards, resulting in disparate thoughts. Convergent thinking is logical and seeks the optimal option at all times.

  • Ideas implemented: Divergent reasoning is an approach to problem-solving that aims to generate as many new ideas as possible. Convergent thinking focuses on well-established principles and approaches.

  • Certainty: Divergent thinking examines all the ideas from various angles to address a challenge or find a solution. Convergent thinking focuses more on certainty because it's more about reasoning.

  • Personality: People with outgoing temperaments who want to explore new ideas usually rely on divergent thinking. Individuals who seek a direct approach may prefer convergent thinking.

  • Limits: Divergent thinking can result in a wide range of viable options. The goal of convergent thinking is to identify the best solution.

  • Efficiency: Divergent thinking considers all alternatives, leading to a conclusive choice that efficiently addresses the challenge. Convergent thinking aims to find a solution systematically, leading to quick judgements.

  • Response value: Divergent thinking gives all responses equal consideration. Convergent thinking focuses on providing the most reasonable response.

  • Concept complexity: Divergent thinking prioritises complex concepts over execution. Convergent thinking thrives on simple, verified concepts.

  • Risk: Divergent thinkers may take risks with their ideas. Convergent thinkers are more likely to avoid risky ideas and stick to ethical principles.

  • Reasoning: Divergent thinking favours inductive reasoning, with multiple answers arising from a single concept. Convergent thinking often employs deductive reasoning to eliminate alternatives in the quest for a single answer.

  • Quality and quantity: Divergent thinking, focuses on quantity, with the goal of generating as many ideas as possible. Convergent thinking prioritises quality over quantity and identifies the most effective solution.

  • Time: If all answers are viable, the divergent thinking process can take longer. Convergent thinking saves time because it only considers the most helpful information.

Related: Inductive and deductive reasoning: examples and differences

Convergent thinking concepts

Convergent thinking uses the following concepts:

Making beneficial decisions

Making a sound decision involves focusing on the benefits of a concept rather than its drawbacks, as beneficial decisions usually result in a positive evaluation process. When facing a topic, think about any positive elements and emphasise them. Then, after exploring the benefits of a concept, consider any disadvantages. By stressing the positive features of each choice, a beneficial decision can change people's views regarding the challenges.

Related: Interview question: 'How do you make effective decisions?'

Maintaining your capacity to be inventive

Convergent thinking is inventive, cautious and conservative. It frequently disregards viable solutions because they're unusual, keeping new solutions from the innovation process. Therefore, maintain a positive attitude and a genuine interest in all potential solutions to a challenge, even if they appear to be risky. Instead of discounting high-risk or unconventional solutions out of hand, explore the benefits first, then consider ways to mitigate any risks. Convergent thinking can lead you to the best solution if you maintain consistency.

Maintaining your commitment

Using convergent thinking requires a substantial amount of commitment to achieve ideas. Convergent thinking involves selecting the most viable ideas from many options, improving each idea and reworking it until it fits your needs. The most innovative ideas result from much trial and error. You can explore the ideas you collect, analyse each option's advantages and disadvantages and thoroughly test the alternatives you choose.

Assessing your goals

Your key objectives govern the convergent thinking process. Therefore, assessing your original goals and objectives helps you stay on course. Check your goals frequently when you consider alternative solutions to challenges to ensure that your emphasis is on them. Make your objectives quantifiable and adaptable and consistently assess how to achieve them.

Related: How to set and discuss long-term career goals (with examples)

Applications of convergent thinking

Areas where you can apply convergent thinking might include:

Schools

Convergent thinking is one of the most widely employed strategies in today's schools. Posting questions, quizzes, standardised examinations and spelling tests demand convergent thinking. As each question has just one valid answer, students can memorise knowledge and employ logical problem-solving procedures to arrive at the correct answer.

As an example, consider determining the answer to a multiple-choice question. The nature of the question is not innovative; it requires the student to think about the validity of each supplied response before selecting the single correct answer. The student uses a limited set of skills and information to arrive at this solution promptly.

Business

Business leaders regularly employ convergent thinking. Leaders constantly analyse alternative solutions to a challenge and determine which best matches their budget, capital and goals. Convergent thinking allows you to swiftly recognise non-viable ideas and focus on the most helpful solutions.

Learning business skills might help you understand more about convergent thinking in the workplace. Workplace training can help you learn the skills that convergent thinking requires. These training programmes can help you become a better leader and achieve corporate objectives in any field.

Science

Scientists use convergent thinking in scientific research initiatives. Scientists research to identify the best answer to an issue. In addition, research follows a logical order and compares unknowns to scientific findings.

This logical order process takes time and effort. As they have limited resources, scientists have developed research to make decisions based on heuristics, promoting built-in studies. Heuristics can sometimes inhibit the decision-making process where researchers require additional accurate information for further research. Therefore, successful convergent thinking relative to science requires researchers to learn more about the cognitive processes forming heuristics.

Advantages of convergent thinking

The following are advantages of convergent thinking:

Helps decision making

Convergent thinking can aid decision-making when you require a simple answer. You can use the process to choose one of many available options by considering a wide range of circumstances relative to the situation. You then eliminate the less beneficial alternatives.

Addresses challenges

You can address most challenges by employing this thinking style in everyday life. Existing solutions and strategies may work, rather than employing advanced answers. Convergent thinking is the best option in this situation since it offers you confidence.

Uses few cognitive resources

Using the tactics already familiar to you can conserve your mental energy and cognitive resources. These known strategies, trails or routes are predictable because you've already experienced them. Some actions you take might occur automatically and efficiently with the help of convergent thinking. People make several decisions every day without realising it, so this way of thinking is easy to apply.

Thinking and learning

Convergent thinking can benefit a variety of learning situations. Understanding the properties of convergent thinking can improve its use and effectiveness in learning. There are various levels of thinking and learning and the value of each depends on the problem. Deciding which level is better or worse depends on the aim and the nature of the problem.

The most important aspect of convergent thinking and learning is thoroughly assessing the situation and understanding or creating the response options. Stretch your imagination, devise a plan of action and carry it through to achieve the intended result in every situation.

Related: What is lateral thinking? (With tips to develop this skill)


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