IQ and intelligence are one thing. But how you apply this power is just as important. There are two types of thinking – convergent thinking, and divergent thinking. Which one is better? Which one leads to more long-term success? Learn more about divergent vs convergent thinking.
Convergent vs Divergent Thinking
Gladwell argues there are two types of thinking:
- Convergent thinking happens when you choose an answer from a list of possibilities. This is the kind of thinking measured by IQ tests.
- Divergent thinking is the ability to consider multiple possibilities and think creatively.
While convergent thinking is the type most often measured by grades and test scores, Gladwell argues that beyond a certain point of intelligence, divergent thinking is more important for success.
What is divergent thinking? A test of divergent thinking might ask: “How many uses can you think of for a brick?”
Here is an answer from a student who excels in divergent thinking:
- “To smash a store window in a protest. To build a cathedral. To tie down birthday balloons…”
Here is an answer from a student with one of the highest IQs in his school:
- “Building things, throwing.”
The second student might have a higher intelligence through certain tests, but the first demonstrates creativity beyond the functional. He’s the more likely of the two to win a Nobel Prize or found a revolutionary business. This is the power of divergent vs convergent thinking.
(Shortform note: Gladwell isn’t explicit about tying this into the book’s themes of external factors influencing success. We take this section as a suggestion that schools and employers may have too narrow a view of intelligence. As a result, many divergent thinkers who don’t test as well on convergent tests are deprived of an opportunity to thrive.)
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- What makes some people outliers, and most others not
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