cropley-convergent - Creativity Research Journal 2006, Vol....

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In Praise of Convergent Thinking Arthur Cropley University of Hamburg ABSTRACT: Free production of variability through un- fettered divergent thinking holds out the seductive promise of effortless creativity but runs the risk of gen- erating only quasicreativity or pseudocreativity if it is not adapted to reality. Therefore, creative thinking seems to involve 2 components: generation of novelty (via divergent thinking) and evaluation of the novelty (via convergent thinking). In the area of convergent thinking, knowledge is of particular importance: It is a source of ideas, suggests pathways to solutions, and provides criteria of effectiveness and novelty. The way in which the 2 kinds of thinking work together can be understood in terms of thinking styles or of phases in the generation of creative products. In practical situa- tions, divergent thinking without convergent thinking can cause a variety of problems including reckless change. Nonetheless, care must be exercised by those who sing the praises of convergent thinking: Both too little and too much is bad for creativity. Discussions of creativity in the early post-Sputnik era were largely shaped by Guilford’s 1949 presidential address to the American Psychological Association (Guilford, 1950). Although Guilford (1950) also drew attention to the importance in creativity of factors such as personality, the ideas of convergent and divergent thinking dominated discussions following his article. Guilford (1950) also acknowledged the importance for creativity of knowledge of facts and, thus, of conver- gent thinking but, despite this, creativity quickly came to be equated with divergent thinking; and the two kinds of thinking were not infrequently presented as Jackson, 1962). Convergent thinking was sometimes even seen as bad or, at best, a necessary evil that is greatly exaggerated in education and business (e.g., Cropley, 1967). In more recent years, however, there has been increasing recognition of the fact that actual creative production does not derive from divergent thinking alone but also requires convergent thinking (e.g., Brophy, 1998; Rickards, 1993). The contribution of convergent thinking to the generation of creative products is the subject of this article. Convergent Versus Divergent Thinking Convergent thinking is oriented toward deriving the single best (or correct) answer to a clearly defined question. It emphasizes speed, accuracy, logic, and the like and focuses on recognizing the familiar, reapply- ing set techniques, and accumulating information. Therefore, it is most effective in situations where a ready-made answer exists and needs simply to be re- called from stored information or worked out from what is already known by applying conventional and logical search, recognition, and decision-making strat- egies. One of the most important aspects of convergent thinking is that it leads to a single best answer and, thus, leaves no room for ambiguity: Answers are either
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cropley-convergent - Creativity Research Journal 2006, Vol....

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