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Health and Wellbeing

09 Sep 2020

Practicing divergent thinking

By Rajna Bogdanovic - Clinical Psychologist

What is divergent thinking?

Sometimes we get stuck thinking in the same way as we’ve always done, and wonder why we are achieving the same results we always have. Does the concept of divergent thinking go some way to getting us out of this “stuckness” and into creativity?

Divergent thinking is a thought process used to generate and explore creative ideas. It is the ability to see many different possibilities and answers to questions, rather than taking the obvious route, all aspects of the situation are evaluated to create different results. Divergent thinking is typically considered free-flowing and non-linear thinking.

Four positive traits and outcomes of divergent thinkers:

  1. New solutions and opportunities: Bringing new, creative solutions to problems breeds confidence, and there will be a rise in demand for divergent thinking if it provides the best solutions possible.
  2. Customer focused: Divergent thinkers evaluate situations in a new light, often asking the tricky questions themselves before customers do, and already being able to provide a solution.
  3. Broader outlook: Divergent thinkers do not approach situations analytically, instead, their approaches bring unique solutions to problems and encourage challenging responses to produce better results.
  4. Enthusiastic learners: Divergent thinkers often bring a dynamic, flexible nature to situations; they bring enthusiasm to engage in challenges and to find the best solution to a problem.

How do you practice divergent thinking?

The goal of divergent thinking is to generate a multitude of different ideas about one topic in a relatively short period of time. Breaking the topic down into various components to gain insight about it is, therefore, important.

Two of the most common and widely known practices of divergent thinking include “the Six Thinking Hats” and “brainstorming”.

The Six Thinking Hats encourages the viewing of problems from many different perspectives depending on which “hat” you are using. There are six hats that correspond to a different category or thinking prompt: White is facts, red is emotion, yellow is positive, green is creative, blue is decisions and black is negative. Try these six hats “on” next time you are trying to find a solution to a problem.

Brainstorming involves writing down all possible ideas and solutions that come to mind for a particular problem or topic, and often these original ideas can then generate more ideas. If it is hard to get started with brainstorming, SCAMPER is an excellent technique to make it more interesting and produce further ideas:

  • Substitute: What alternatives are available to the materials, processes and methods already in use?
  • Combine: How can you combine different ideas?
  • Adapt: How can you adapt an idea already in use?
  • Modify: What materials, processes or methods could be modified to solve the problem?
  • Put to other use: Can any materials, methods or processes be used elsewhere?
  • Eliminate: What materials, methods or steps can be eliminated to remove problems or inefficiencies?
  • Rearrange: How can materials, methods or processes be moved to solve a problem?

So, many organisations are seeking to think differently and pivot in order to stay afloat or thrive during this pandemic, so why not try some of the above ideas on your own or with your team – you just might come across your next big idea! •

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