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INTERVIEW QUESTION:

Describe How Convergent and Divergent Thinking Can Be Used as a Problem Solving Technique?

Posted by Chris Adams

Article Rating // 8315 Views // 4 Additional Answers & Comments

Categories: Business Analysis, Analytical and Problem Solving Skills

ANSWER

Divergent and Convergent thinking when used together can help an analyst arrive at better and more creative solutions than he or she otherwise might have.  Divergent thinking is the process of breaking a topic down and generating many ideas that branch out from the original concept while Convergent thinking is the process of focusing on a fewer set of ideas and evaluating them based on selection criteria.

Divergent and Convergent thinking can be used together in a three step process:

  1. Brainstorming
  2. Reducing and Categorizing
  3. Ranking and Selecting

The first step, brainstorming, is a divergent thinking process and is most effective when a couple of guidelines are followed.  When using divergent thinking to generate a list of potential solutions, remember the following:

  1. The more ideas that are generated the better
  2. Generate new ideas by building on previous ones
  3. There is no such thing as bad ideas (even off-the-wall ideas can help generate other more viable ones)
  4. Don’t evaluate ideas during the divergent thinking process

Once a list of potential ideas has been generated, the second step of reducing and categorizing can take place (a convergent thinking process).  During this step the most impractical ideas will now be eliminated and the remaining ideas can be grouped together into different categories based on their similarities.

Finally, the remaining list of ideas can be ranked based on the pros and cons of each (another convergent thinking process) and a final solution selected.

Consider the following example of using Divergent and Convergent thinking for problem solving.

A manufacturer of jumbo hard pretzels always experiences a certain amount of broken product on their manufacturing lines.  They have initiated projects in the past to reduce the amount of breakage from 7% to 4% measured by weight.  However, is would not be cost effective to try and reduce breakage further via other projects.  Each week all of the pieces of broken pieces are collected and discarded.  What other options might the company have to reduce or eliminate their losses due to broken product?

Step 1: Brainstorm

  • Sell the broken product to a dog food company as a filler ingredient for dog food
  • Sell the broken product to a mulching company to be used as mulch
  • Sell the broken product to a shipping company as packaging filler
  • Sell the broken product to a bird food manufacturer
  • Season the broken product and market and sell it as a new product of its own
  • Give the broken product to a food shelter and take it as a tax write off
  • Develop a product that affixes the pieces together to form a bio-degradable “clay pigeon” for skeet shooting

Step 2: Reducing and Categorizing

Category: Sell to another company

  • Sell the broken product to a dog food company as a filler ingredient for dog food
  • Sell the broken product to a mulching company to be used as mulch (impractical)
  • Sell the broken product to a shipping company as packaging filler (impractical)
  • Sell the broken product to a bird food manufacturer

Category: Develop another product internally

  • Season the broken product and market and sell it as a new product of its own
  • Develop a product that affixes the pieces together to form a bio-degradable “clay pigeon” for skeet shooting

Category: Tax write off

  • Give the broken product to a food shelter and take it as a tax write off

Step 3: Ranking and Selecting

  1. Season the broken product and market and sell it as a new product of its own (Selected for maximum revenue)
  2. Give the broken product to a food shelter and take it as a tax write off
  3. Develop a product that affixes the pieces together to form a bio-degradable “clay pigeon” for skeet shooting
  4. Sell the broken product to a dog food company as a filler ingredient for dog food
  5. Sell the broken product to a bird food manufacturer

--
Chris Adams
LinkedIn Profile

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ADDITIONAL ANSWERS / COMMENTS

Shalini posted on Wednesday, March 25, 2009 2:58 PM
succint and effective!
maxwell posted on Sunday, July 26, 2009 7:04 AM
Very appt illustration....
amit aswani posted on Thursday, August 27, 2009 12:48 PM
Need an example relevant to software development.
Damola posted on Sunday, March 4, 2018 12:22 PM
nice and value adding
Only registered users may post comments.

Do your homework prior to the business analysis interview!

Having an idea of the type of questions you might be asked during a business analyst interview will not only give you confidence but it will also help you to formulate your thoughts and to be better prepared to answer the interview questions you might get during the interview for a business analyst position.  Of course, just memorizing a list of business analyst interview questions will not make you a great business analyst but it might just help you get that next job.





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