This assignment is intended to help you learn to do the following:
- Develop possible solutions for a self-chosen decision or problem through the divergent thinking technique.
- Assemble a list of potential solutions for a self-chosen decision or problem through the convergent thinking technique.
- Critique a problem from conflicting perspectives through the devil’s advocate technique.
As you gathered your data and pertinent information, you most likely began to identify possible alternative paths of action. For this assignment, you will brainstorm alternate solutions to a problem, and then narrow these solutions to those that appear most viable to resolve the problem. Additionally, clear problem statements often contain implicit ideas for their resolution. In decision making and problem solving, it is essential that you remain focused and objective.
In this assignment, you will practice the technique of devil’s advocacy. This technique allows an individual or individuals to voice concerns regarding weaknesses, inadequacies, or unconsidered factors posed by a primary solution. This practice injects a sense of realism into solution considerations and is too often underutilized in decision-making processes. The core advantage of devil’s advocacy is its ability to engage decision makers in seeing potential gaps in their plans and propose improved ways to approach a problem.
See the Divergent and Convergent Analysis Techniques (Links to an external site.) video for guidance in your work.
- Prepare a 3-5 page paper. The paper should be organized as follows (use the bold words as major section headings). Compile all work into a single document.
- Introduction: Include a brief recap of the problem and where you are in the problem-solving process so far (1-2 paragraphs).
- Divergent Thinking Process: Include the discussion of your divergent thinking process and a list of the solutions you developed.
- Apply divergent thinking (brainstorming) to determine as many possible solutions to your workplace problem as you can think of. Involve others in this process to get a wide range of solutions from different perspective. Include your discussion of the divergent thinking process, with a bulleted list or a mind map of the solutions (if you create a mind map diagram, include it as an appendix). Refer to Part 1 below for additional details on conducting the session. A high-quality paper will include a description of divergent thinking, an explanation of its value, some key observations about the brainstorming session, and a list or diagram of the possible solutions.
- Convergent Thinking Process: Include the discussion of your convergent thinking process, and the narrowed-down list or table showing your solutions.
- See the additional discussion in Part 2 below for more details. A high-quality paper will include a discussion of what convergent thinking is, why it is valuable, and good rationale for why certain solutions will likely prove successful. Revise your list or diagram showing the solutions that made the cut.
- Devil’s Advocate Thinking: Include the discussion and question-and-answer portion of the devil’s advocate thinking process.
- Demonstrate your 3-4 best possible (or most plausible) solutions, based on addressing the 6 devil’s advocate questions listed in Part 3 below. You can write this section in paragraph and bullet-point style, and/or create a table that shows a question-and-answer format for the devil’s advocate questions. A high-quality paper will include a discussion of what devil’s advocate thinking is, why it is valuable, and good rationale for why certain solutions will likely prove successful.
- Conclusion: Write a brief conclusion (about 1 paragraph) with your findings, observations, and a clear and direct statement indicating what you think the primary and secondary solutions are at this stage.
- See below for more detailed guidelines on the main sections of the paper.
Part 1: Divergent Thinking
- Meet with several people at work, or with others who have a vested interested in your problem.
- Use divergent thinking (brainstorming) with them to generate as many possible solutions to your problem as you can (aim for 12-15).
- Make notes about this process – not only the solutions offered, but a description of how the session went. Were members hesitant? Did ideas flow smoothly? Observe the process overall, and comment on it along with your list of solutions. Some people like to supplement the written description/list by creating a mind-map diagram or other illustration showing the possible solutions in a visual, creative way. These diagrams can be valuable and more telling than a list.
- Adhere to the following rules of divergent thinking in order to generate solutions and alternate solutions:
- Do not evaluate or criticize any responses during your brainstorming session.
- Remember: the more ideas, the better.
- Set a time limit (e.g., 15-30 minutes).
- Build upon or "piggyback" on others’ ideas.
Part 2: Convergent Thinking
- Use convergent thinking to narrow down your list of possible solutions and group them into like categories (winnow and cluster, as Jones calls it).
- Review, consolidate, and narrow down your divergent list until you can analyze each possible solution separately and systematically.
- Place your solutions into as few as possible themes or categories.
- List your possible solutions that are practical and have a high potential for success.
- Write 1-2 sentences for each of the possible solutions justifying why those solutions have a high probability for success.
- Combine the answers that are similar or repetitive.
- Combine like concepts.
- Eliminate responses that do not fit.
- Compare your solutions to your problem statement for fit.
Part 3: Devil’s Advocate Process
- Examine 3-4 of the best possible solutions from your narrowed-down list, using the devil’s advocate point of view. Use the questions below as a question-and-answer approach to devil’s advocacy. Approach this part as though you really have to know your possible solutions inside and out so that you can defend them. You may find that some of the solutions won’t hold up well to scrutiny.
- Use the following 6 key questions to guide your thinking, and where appropriate, be sure to focus on the opposite or defensive viewpoint of your potential solutions:
- Why should this solution be implemented?
- What could go wrong if this solution is implemented?
- What are the weaknesses and risks of this solution?
- How else could this problem be resolved?
- Who might resist?
- What is not being considered that should be?
- Submit the completed first draft of your assignment. Your work will automatically be checked by Turnitin.
- Access your Turnitin report by reviewing your Submission Details for this assignment. Revise your work as needed based on the feedback.
- By the due date indicated, re-submit the final version of your work.
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