Thinking About Divergent Thinking


I’ve been thinking about thinking again. And wouldn't you know it? A hundred things came to mind! Unfortunately, they came to mind at 5:15 AM … an hour before my alarm was set to go off. The thoughts seemed to be whizzing through my brain so fast that I had to get up and write them down. I wrote as fast as I could, but in the end I had a jumble of ideas on my paper. How would I ever make sense of it all? What good was it to write it all down? There must be a way to organize my thoughts. Maybe if I slept on it?


Divergent thinking can be both a blessing and a curse. It does not begin with ‘a’ thought. It begins with a large number of spontaneous and rapidly produced thoughts. A divergent thinker has the ability to consider multiple approaches to a problem and can make unexpected connections between these thoughts. The ideas tend to be new and different than those suggested by most other people. Subsequent convergent thinking comes into play as the thoughts are organized and the ‘best’ solution to the problem is determined. A divergent thinker also possesses the ability to put the solution into action after working out the details.

For a gifted child, divergent thinking is often a frustrating experience. Sleepless nights, daydreaming, reprimands from teachers for being off-task; all these things come into play. Their own lack of understanding about why so many thoughts are racing through their minds all at once can often lead them to conceal the fact that it is happening at all. Or they may think everyone thinks this way – has a multitude of answers for every question posed to them. (Hint: they do not.)

You don’t have to be gifted to be a divergent thinker. However, personality traits associated with divergent thinkers include risk-taking, being curious and persistent, and generally being regarded as a non-conformist. Know anybody like that?

Parents cannot solely rely on schools for teaching divergent thinking. For numerous reasons, it rarely occurs in a regular education classroom. Most teachers don’t have the time to develop and then use activities that promote divergent thinking. Modern-day classrooms are geared to teach that only one correct answer is acceptable; i.e., teaching to the (standardized) test. And it is hard to grade a ‘possibility’. Can you think of a better way to stifle creativity?

The skills that society values most – creativity, innovation, and problem solving – have their roots in divergent thinking. It is the basis upon which we evolve and become better with each successive generation. It is incumbent upon parents to nurture these young minds. Your child needs to harness the power inherent in this type of thinking; to understand how it can increase their ability to do creative problem-solving. Various techniques can be used to encourage divergent thinking such as mind mapping, journaling, brainstorming (SCAMPER, 6 Thinking Hats), and unstructured writing.

The world today is facing what seems like insurmountable problems – economic downturns, environmental disasters, political strife, new diseases without cures – all of which need answers. Inspiring gifted minds to think divergently will benefit society by finding viable solutions to these very important issues.


After 6 revisions, I was finally able to make sense of my thoughts … on divergent thinking. Of course, it involved several sleepless nights and a slew of naps … but this blog post is a wrap!


Graphic courtesy of Flickr CC 2.0

Updated 4/12/2015.

Comments

  1. Great post, Lisa! One if my kids is a divergent thinker, and it's pretty frustrating for the rest of us logical, convergent, precise and linear thinkers in the family. I'm sure it's frustrating for him to deal with us too!

    Most of the time he seems so muddled and chaotic -- then there's the occasional flash of incredible, creative brilliance.

    It's nice to get some insight into this from an adult perspective. Thanks again!

    Lisa

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    1. Thanks! Glad that this post was helpful. It's fascinating to watch our gifted kids think ... to wait and see those flashes of brilliance.

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    1. Thanks, Christine! That means a lot coming from one of my most favorite authors! Your newest book, Raising the Shy Child ( http://goo.gl/7w4AZw ) is one I'd highly recommend to all parents of gifted children.

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  3. This sounds like my son to a tee! I feel for him! His mind is ALWAYS going. Sometimes that's great and sometimes it's difficult (like when trying to fall asleep). When he's interested in something and there have been no restrictions put on him he is enthusiastic and creative. But when time or practicality is an issue (sorry, honey, but we don't HAVE access to jet fuel), he gets frustrated and deflated.
    I've watched him at school at times and have seen many instances when, just as the teacher found a way to engage him and she really has him excited about something, she shuts him down because there just isn't enough time in the schedule to allow for it. It's frustrating for me as a parent as well. I just feel like he has so much to offer, but is running into walls at every turn.
    What do we do?

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  4. Jeanne ... here are a few things you can do - talk to his teacher about any ideas she might have as well as any other resource personnel - gifted teacher, school psychologist, or guidance counselor. Outside of school, you may want to look for a psychologist who specializes in gifted children. I know they are hard to come by, but they are better suited to deal with gifted kids. Continual frustration can lead to other problems down the road. Another resource might be a gifted support group if available in your school district. Other parents can be a big help who have faced a similar situation. Summer is a great time to investigate interests at camps and classes as well. This could be an outlet for your divergent thinker. hth

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  5. ljconrad... thanks for the advice. My son was seeing a therapist specifically trained for dealing with gifted people and he had great success with her. The staff at the school has been great at working with us, but there's only so much they're willing or able to do. More and more I feel as though a traditional classroom just isn't the place for him. But I'd hate to move him somewhere because he's very social and making him leave his friends seems cruel. We already asked him to do that when he grade accelerated and it was so hard for him. There is a support group associated with the school. I'll look into becoming more involved with them. Thanks.
    I found an interesting article about a related topic. Check out my post about it at The Noodle Factory. I'd love to hear what others think of it.

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  6. Great posting...Every sentence ring's true..

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  7. I am a 14 year old gifted girl. As such, I am a divergent thinker. When we were labeled as "gifted" in the third grade at the age of eight, they told us that we think differently. We all assumed that they just didn't want to say that we are smarter. In a sense, that's true. Gifted children have a minimum IQ of 131, in Canada at least.
    During grades one through three, I would cry about school. I would ask my mother to let me stay home for just one week. I found class incredibly boring. I knew all the answers, and there was never anything to stimulate me or keep me interested. These troubles were eliminated when I was placed in the Gifted Program in the fourth grade for the rest of elementary school.
    Parents, please, if you have a gifted child please place them in the appropriate program. Everyone thinks like they do, they are challenged far more than mainstream students, and the program is built for their strengths, and yes, even weaknesses.
    We truly aren`t aware that we have a different train of thought. I am not consciously aware that my other friends do not think in the same way as I do. I am often more insightful, however gifted children are far more than just this.
    I can not stress how important this is. Please try and find a gifted or enrichment program near your area where you can enrol your child. Do not be surprised when your child says something that is far beyond their years. They understand and are aware of far more than you.

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    1. Well said! Thanks for your insightful comment!

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  8. Loved the statement "Divergent thinking can be both a blessing and a curse." Great post, btw..

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    1. Thanks for your comment. I really believe this is true.

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  9. I REALLY appreciate this post. I am a divergent thinker and I never knew it until I started looking up things about left handed people. I have always thought everyone thought they way I did and that the people who didn't, had been stifled creatively as children. No I know different and I will be more patient with those whos brain is not wired like mine. THANK YOU AGAIN!!!!!

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    1. You are most welcome. I think it's pretty common for many gifted individuals to assume that everyone thinks like they do and It is surprising when they realize this is not the case.

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