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« The Powerful Fours of Creative Thinking | Main | Creative Connections »

Creative Genius: It Takes Both Sides

What is Creativity? Creativity is about problem solving in a new way. It is using skills to generate ideas and bring about something unique and valuable. Although the creative process involves imagination and self expression, it must be purposeful in reaching “outside the box” to solve a problem, meet a need, or accomplish a goal.

Although some children are innately more creatively inclined, all kids can learn creative thinking skills and get in the habit of using them for problem solving in life, work, and play.

Divergent And Convergent Thinking

We often hear the terms “right brain” and “left brain” thinking. This refers to the two hemispheres of the brain, each of which dominate different thought processes. In reality, both hemispheres need to work together for us to do anything meaningful.

As a broad generality, “right brain” (the right hemisphere) controls the more divergent style of thinking, and “left brain” (the left hemisphere) controls the more convergent style of thinking.

Divergent Thinking: Diversify and explore

Creative thinkers use divergent thinking to generate new ideas. In divergent thinking you start with an idea or information and move outward from it, looking at related ideas or things, and going wherever thoughts lead. This style of thinking resists closure and seeks to explore options, new connections, and possibilities. This style of thinking is freely open to anything and everything.

Convergent Thinking: Choose and refine.

The convergent style of thinking selects ideas or information and focuses to eliminate the extraneous by filtering and refining information. Convergent thinking leads to a specific point. The convergent approach holds ideas up to scrutiny by determined standards. Convergent thinking seeks closure and definitive answers, and screens out that which does not lead toward your goal.

Both divergent and convergent thinking are essential for generating successful ideas.  

This interplay of the two thinking styles results in innovations that are unique and have value. The two thinking styles do not take place simultaneously; they alternate. For example, use divergent thinking to explore many possibilities.  Use convergent thinking to determine the best possibility. Use divergent thinking again to generate ideas for making a possibility more useful. Use convergent thinking again to refine those ideas.

As creative thinkers move back and forth between the two styles, they’re not necessarily conscious of which style they are using. They continue until they generate a valuable, groundbreaking idea.

Creativity in the Classroom

Our children often practice a convergent style of thinking in school, but they need more opportunities to exercise divergence, as well. Our Creative Genius lesson plans strengthen divergent thinking skills along with convergent thinking skills. They’re great fun and anyone can use them.

Go over to our Freebies page and download these free lesson plans: “What Can You Do With a Paper Clip?” and “What Can’t You Do With a Paper Clip?” And let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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Reader Comments (3)

Very interesting.I only knew about the right and the left hemisphere of the brain. I wasn't familiar with the divergent and convergent thinking. They say that if you write using your right hand, your left brain is more active than the other. Is that true? And is there a scientific basis on this?

September 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHalley | Business Cards

@ Halley
The functioning of the human brain is deeply complex, so please understand that my explanations are broad simplifications.

In general, the two hemispheres have tendencies toward different kinds of thought. Neurologists indicate that the left hemisphere tends to be more activated in logical, analytical thinking (convergent style.) The right hemisphere tends to be more activated in creative, intuitive thinking (divergent style.)

Perhaps using your non-dominant hand for tasks in which you usually use your dominant hand, such as writing, would result in overall stimulation of your non-dominant hand’s hemisphere, but I can’t be sure. I am sure that changing your awareness by doing things in a different way than usual will change your perspective psychologically. New perspectives lead to creative thought.

I’m passionate about the creative process, but I don’t pretend to have deep qualifications about the overall science. For a future blog post I have invited a guest neurologist to provide more detail about brain functioning as it relates to creativity.

Thanks for your comment!

October 3, 2011 | Registered CommenterMarjorie Sarnat

As background to the lesson plans using paper clips, I came across this terrific article on Slate on the history of the paper clip:

The Perfection of the Paper Clip

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarty Safir
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