Divergent thinking is the art of generating abundant ideas, unbound by false constraints.
Convergent thinking is the skill of distilling many ideas into a focused few.
Diverging to create choices and converging to make choices is the basis of Design Thinking.
To invent solutions where there are none, and then identify the right way forward, product people must switch between divergent and convergent thinking regularly, flexing these perceptions like a muscle. Generate as many ideas as you can, refine. Generate, refine. Repeat.
I call this exercise “Product Thinking.”
It’s important to time box this cycle, to protect ideas and give them time to grow and evolve, and to prevent burrowing too far into a convergent hole before noticing changes in the market or user behavior.
Some people have a natural talent for Product Thinking. Others are stronger in one area than the other, and struggle with context switching. Everyone must become skilled at Product Thinking to deliver useful products reliably.