Strategic Thinking Is Convergent And Divergent

Can you be both logical and creative when looking at how to solve a problem? I think yes. In fact, I say it is critical to the role of a strategist in a marketing agency.

Strategy can be defined as an interactive and fluid approach between divergent and convergent thinking, containing both critical and creative elements. But what does this mean, and how can this change the outcome of a brief?

For clarity, let’s start with some definitions. Convergent thinking narrows down multiple ideas into a single solution. On the other hand, divergent thinking expands outward by generating multiple ideas, often thinking like a hacker and using materials in original ways.

Creativity has often been confused with divergent thinking; and intelligence with convergent thinking. The construct of intelligence is defined as the ability to produce the single best (or correct) answer to a clearly defined question, such as a proof to a theorem.

The construct of creativity, in contrast, is defined as the ability to innovate and move beyond what is already known. In other words, it emphasizes the aspect of innovation. This involves the ability to consider things from an uncommon perspective. So how do we define creative intelligence if they are abstract principles?

Strategic Creativity

Creativity is often viewed as being difficult, but it’s proven that authentic creativity is natural and normal for everyone. A simple way to see this is in children, who are much more likely to have quite broad, divergent thinking. In a NASA study looking at creativity; when they looked at 5-year-olds, a massive 95% tested showcased genius levels of creativity.

This, however, changes as we get older. Once solutions are discovered, then they become mistaken for facts. “We already know the right answer to that, so don’t bother searching for a new answer.” Discovery stops and it becomes more important to know the right answer, the answer someone else came up with. See, when you’re a 5-year-old, you don’t know any of those right answers yet. So, creativity comes easily.

Working in a creative agency, when presented with a client brief this is what we need to avoid – jumping straight to the logical, simple ‘answer’ to the problem before we have done any discovery. We need to revert back to when we didn’t know the answer. Or just ‘play dumb’.

This starts with broad research, let’s assume we don’t know anything. Let’s ask the big questions, then let’s ask them in a different way. If we do this, we may get a very different answer. This, however, is where convergent thinking comes in; once we have done the discovery phase; we distill all of this information down into our strategy, our objectives and our single-minded proposition.

When looking for a needle in the haystack, we first need a strategy if we hope to keep the haystack intact.

Thus, strategy requires both of these thinking processes, and creativity occurs when these two processes complement each other: divergent thinking to generate many novel ideas and convergent thinking to evaluate these ideas and select one of them to solve a particular problem.

In this view, divergent thinking enables the generation of new ideas whereas the exploratory activities of convergent thinking enable the conversion of ideas into something new and appropriate.

A strategy to success.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Emma Gordon is Planner/Strategist at Halo

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