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Top 12 Divergent Thinking Techniques

Ever stare at a blank page (or screen) willing inspiration to strike? We've all been there. But what if there was a way to systematically generate a flood of creative ideas? Enter the magic of divergent thinking.

Divergent thinking, in contrast to its convergent counterpart (focusing on a single "correct" solution), is all about exploring a wide range of possibilities. It encourages you to break free from conventional thinking and embrace wild, unexpected ideas.

[These ideas and much more can be found in our FREE ebook: The Creative Spark - Habits & Tricks to Maximize Creativity]

Here are our 12 powerhouse brainstorming techniques that leverage the power of divergent thinking to turn your creative wellspring into a gushing geyser:

1. Brain Dump:

Write down EVERYTHING that comes to mind related to your challenge. Don't edit, judge, or censor yourself. They don't even have to be complete sentences, just dump it all out! This free-flowing approach can spark unexpected connections and lead to unique ideas.

2. Mind Mapping:  

This visual brainstorming technique allows you to capture every fleeting thought or image that pops into your head. Don't censor yourself! Jot down keywords, phrases, sketches – anything that sparks a connection to your central theme. As you brainstorm, draw lines or arrows to connect related ideas, sparking new pathways for divergent thought.

3. Random Word Prompts:  

Give serendipity a chance! Pull random words from a dictionary or use an online word generator. Challenge yourself to find connections between these seemingly unrelated words and your brainstorming topic. This injects a dose of randomness, fostering divergent reasoning that can lead to surprising breakthroughs.

4. Role-Playing:  

Step into the shoes of a different character – a customer, a competitor, or even an inanimate object related to your project. Think from their perspective and consider how they might interact with your idea. This divergent thinking exercise can reveal fresh insights and expose potential blind spots.

Brain dumping doesn't have to just be words, it could be all sketches too!

5. "What If?" Scenarios:  

Challenge assumptions and explore the realm of possibilities by asking a series of "what if" questions. "What if our product could shrink to the size of a keychain?" "What if it could talk?" These seemingly absurd questions can spark surprisingly innovative ideas through divergent reasoning.

6. Worst Possible Scenario:

Now push the "What if?" scenarios to the extreme. Imagine the absolute worst outcome for your idea. What could go wrong? By exploring these "what-ifs," you can identify potential pitfalls and strengthen your overall concept.

7. Reverse Brainstorming:  

Flip the script! Instead of brainstorming solutions, brainstorm all the ways your idea could potentially fail. Analyzing potential weaknesses from a divergent thinking perspective can help you identify areas for improvement and ultimately strengthen your idea.


This handy acronym stands for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to Other Uses, Eliminate, and Rearrange. Use it as a framework to push your ideas further. For example, "Substitute" a key component of your idea with something entirely different. "Combine" two seemingly unrelated concepts. These prompts encourage you to explore new avenues through divergent thinking.

9. Brainwriting:  

This collaborative technique involves writing down ideas anonymously on slips of paper, passing them on to others, and building upon or combining existing ideas. The anonymity fosters open participation and prevents dominant personalities from stifling divergent thought.

10. Question Everything:

Challenge assumptions, industry standards, and ingrained beliefs. Ask "why" about everything related to your project (and then ask "why" again to those answers). This can help you see things in a new light, reveal underlying flaws or unnecessary assumptions, and open up new possibilities.

11. SCAMPER for the Senses:  

Take SCAMPER a step further by considering it through the lens of the five senses. "How can we modify the sound associated with our product?" "Can we eliminate the visual clutter from our design?" This sensory exploration prompts a new wave of divergent thought.

12. The Worst Idea Ever:  

Sometimes, the most unexpected solutions come from embracing the absurd. Challenge yourselves to come up with the worst possible ideas related to your project. Through laughter and playful brainstorming, you might stumble upon a gem of an idea hidden within the "terrible" ones. This playful approach encourages divergent thinking that can lead to unexpected breakthroughs.

Remember, the key to successful brainstorming is to embrace quantity over quality in the initial stages. The more ideas you generate, the greater the chance of stumbling upon a truly groundbreaking concept. So, gather your team, unleash your divergent thinking, and get ready to transform your brainstorming sessions from a trickle of ideas to a thundering torrent of creative genius!


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