top of page

Creativity Module 12:

Divergent Thinking

DIY Arts and Crafts

Background Information:

Divergent thinking is a creative process that generates many ideas (e.g., problems and solutions) and is related to fluency (see Creativity Module 9.6). Divergent thinking is one half of the creative thinking process; convergent thinking is the other half, as presented in Figure 2.2. Creative Thinking Process (Tanner & Reisman, 2014) in chapter 2


Divergent Thinking vs. Convergent Thinking

Divergent thinking involves generating a wide range of ideas or solutions for a problem, while convergent thinking involves using logical steps to determine the best solution. Unlike convergent thinking, divergent thinking does not have a single best answer and is more spontaneous and free flowing. This type of thinking is useful for open-ended problems that require creativity. Conversely, convergent thinking is effective when there is a single correct answer that can be found by analyzing available information. Convergent thinking does not rely on creativity and is often used in multiple-choice questions on school exams. Tests like the alternative uses test and incomplete figure test have been shown to enhance divergent thinking and measure creativity.




Alex Osborn (1964), known as the Father of the Brainstorming, said: It is easier to tone down a wild idea than to think up a new one. Brainstorming is a method of thinking up solutions, ideas or new concepts and typically involves three steps: i) idea capture, ii) discussion and critique, and iii) selection. See the four rules of brainstorming below.

Rule 1: Focus on Quantity

Rule 2: Withhold Criticism

Rule 3: Welcome Wild Ideas.

Rule 4: Combine and Improve Ideas

Reverse brainstorming (Michalko, 2006) is a different approach to brainstorming by stating the problem in reverse to help solve problems by looking at them from a completely different angle and generating more creative solutions

Brainwriting (Michalko, 2006) is a technique of brainwriting invented shortly after Osborn published his brainstorming technique. A German marketing professional named Bernd Rohrbach (1968) innovated a process called 6-3-5. The numbers 6-3-5 represent 6 people coming together around a common problem, then each jots down 3 initial ideas on their own, and then after 5 minutes, they rotate their notes and repeat the process. This way, people can learn from each other, and no one gets silenced in the process. This technique alleviates three of the biggest brainstorming shortcomings by i) avoiding unbalanced conversation, ii) ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to contribute, and iii) eliminating the bias toward the first idea. 

Figure Storming (Michalko, 2006) is a useful creativity tool for generating fresh ideas and encouraging innovative thinking. It involves creating visual representations of a problem or idea to generate new and innovative solutions. It is similar to brainstorming, but instead of using only words, participants use drawings, diagrams, and other visual aids to represent their ideas. The process begins with a problem or idea, and participants are given time to sketch their initial ideas. These sketches are then shared and discussed in the group, with participants building on and refining each other’s ideas

Starbursting (Michalko, 2006) is s a creative thinking technique that involves generating questions related to a specific problem or topic in order to identify potential opportunities, challenges, and solutions. The process of Starbursting involves creating a star-shaped diagram with the topic or problem in the center and lines radiating outward to six points, each representing a different question: Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How?

For each of the six questions, participants brainstorm additional questions that help to explore the topic or problem more deeply. For example, for the question "What?" participants might ask "What are the possible outcomes?" or "What are the different options?" For "Why?" they might ask "Why is this important?" or "Why does this problem exist?" By generating a wide range of questions, Starbursting helps to identify areas of focus and potential avenues for exploration.

Starbursting is often used in the early stages of idea generation and problem-solving to help expand thinking beyond initial assumptions and identify potential areas for further exploration. By exploring the topic or problem from multiple angles, Starbursting can help to generate new and unexpected ideas, challenge assumptions, and facilitate more informed decision-making.

SCAMPER is an activity that relies upon divergent thinking proposed by Alex Osborn’s brainstorming process (Osborn, 1964), and involves looking at situations from new perspectives. Osborn’s ground rules for group brainstorming comprise the following: judicial judgment is ruled out; wildness is welcomed; quantity is wanted; and combination and improvement are sought. These four guidelines provide the power that underlies divergent thinking. The acronym, SCAMPER (Eberle, 1996), refers to the skills of Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify/Magnify/ Minify, Put to other uses, Eliminate, and Reverse/Rearrange. 



Observe and discuss with colleagues results of the Voice role play activity with the goal of modeling instruction to enhance divergent thinking.

After each activity attempted, ask the learners to write a reflection of what they gained from the activity, how and why they either liked or disliked a particular activity and how they would modify it. The teacher then abstracts themes from the students’ reflections and shares them with the class for discussion. The goal is for the learners to become aware of what divergent thinking is.

bottom of page