The concept of convergent thinking refers to a problem solving technique through which you synthesize ideas from different fields in order to find the best solution to a clearly stated issue. Convergent thinking involves starting with a number of options, a limited number, and then choose one of them.
The term was first proposed by J. P. Guilford, an American psychologist whose area of expertise was human intelligence and the processes involved in problem solving.
Based on his research, he noticed that people usually preferred one of two distinctive ways to approach problems instead of using both of these approaches, depending on the context. He called these two approaches to problem solving convergent thinking and divergent thinking.
Convergent thinking is the choice of most people, as other researchers have shown, possibly because it is the problem solving style encouraged by the educational systems worldwide; during schooling, students need to look for the ‘correct’ solution instead of finding creative answers.
Convergent thinking is based on logic, speed, and accuracy, and previous knowledge of the subject. It also involves creating strategies and techniques which optimize solving of future similar problems. For this reason, convergent thinkers will have a harder time dealing with new types of problems, or with finding innovative solutions to problems.
The process of convergent thinking is logical, systematical, unlike divergent thinking which is spontaneous. Divergent thinkers try to look at a problem from various angles and come up with a creative solution. They tend to look at the bigger picture, and excel at innovating and finding creative solutions to problems. At the same time, they are less efficient in situations where logical solutions are needed.
Convergent thinking is best suited for those situations in which we have the information we need in order to identify options and choose the optimal solution.
Understanding these problem solving approaches can be helpful in the workplace. A mixed team of convergent and divergent thinkers can ensure that a team will be able to find the best solutions to any problems the company is confronted with.