Convergent intelligence is a person’s ability to give an answer to a question that only has one answer. For example, this question only has one answer:
2 + 2 =?
The only answer is 4.
Divergent intelligence is a person’s ability to answer a question that has multiple answers. How many ways can you trap a mouse?
Prolific writers and painters are divergent thinkers. J.K. Rowling writes stories in the fantasy genre. She has written seven best-selling Harry Potterbooks as well as hundreds of pages about Harry Potter in supplemental books. The divergent genius of Rowling is her ability to create an enormously successful series of literary sequels across thousands of pages yet involving so few characters in a few locations.
William Shakespeare wrote sonnets that contained fourteen lines of rhyming verse. Each line was ten syllables long. He wrote plays in three genres: comedy, history, tragedy. The divergent genius of Shakespeare is not only that he wrote stories that are timeless and filled with statements that resonate with people all over the world, but that he also wrote all of his plays in the ten-syllable lines that contain an unstressed syllable followed with a stressed syllable for thousands of lines.
Unlike Rowling, Shakespeare wrote about a large number of characters in many more locations over greater periods. However, imagine the divergent genius required for Rowling to go back and write all of her stories in iambic pentameter poetry, the form of verse that Shakespeare used for his sonnets and his plays.
Rowling and Shakespeare are divergent geniuses with different gifts for divergent thinking.
So where does all this issue of divergent thinking become important in your career and your business?
Innovation is divergent thinking. Also, you can increase your divergent thinking.
Just as illiterate people can raise their convergent intelligence through learning to read and do arithmetic, all of us can raise our divergent thinking through practice. The place to start is to begin to ask ourselves questions about situations that in our lives. Start with questions such as these.
What are my options?
What are my goals?
What do I want to do?
Who are my best connections?
What distractions can I quickly cut?
Image: Erik Drost/Flickr