March 10, 2022
Embracing divergent thinking in the workplace
To the uninitiated, “divergent” might sound like a negative word. In daily life it does have certain negative connotations. A divergent route is a pain, taking us off our desired course. When a conversation is diverted, it generally means going off-topic or losing sight of the original point of discussion. And yet, despite these miscellaneous negative associations, it’s a word which can actually signify a whole lot of positivity.
Google defines ‘divergent’ as: “[something] tending to be different or develop in different directions.” In other words, divergence is simply a change in direction – a departure from the norm. When it comes to thought processes, divergent thinking can refer to a more creative way of considering and engaging with ideas. In other words, a brilliant way for businesses to seek more innovative solutions to problems and uncover brilliant new ideas. Keep reading to find out more about what divergent thinking is and how you can embrace it in the workplace.
What is divergent thinking?
Divergent thinking is a way of working with – rather than against – your brain’s natural way of pursuing ideas. Funny as it may seem, from school to university to work, many of the institutions which provide us with knowledge also encourage entrenched and rote modes of thinking. So much so that many of us, when faced with a tricky problem or blank page, panic rather than getting down to ideating.
Introducing divergent thinking is a great way to tackle this by promoting non-linear and free-flowing ways of tackling problems, challenges and a lack of creativity. If you’re not familiar with the process yourself, here’s a list of a few simple things you can do to encourage divergent thinking in your everyday life.
- Identify the correct problem
- Make mistakes fast
- Instinct to go one way? Try going the other
- Get curious
- Reserve judgement
- Get absurd
- Double the number of ideas
Read on for more information on how you can embrace divergent thinking in the workplace.
Get your head OUT of the game
We often think of the office as a place where we should have our gameface on. Head down, focus engaged, ready to produce work. This is all well and good when it comes to doing your usual work, but for tackling problems and coming up with ideas, you need to change up your thinking. Try mixing things up by turning problems on their head. Reverse brainstorming is a great example of a way you can do just that. Instead of seeking solutions for your problem, try seeking ways you can make it worse. For example, if you’re looking to win customers, brainstorm how you could lose them. It may sound insane to begin with, but you may just find yourself uncovering new ideas you would never have considered if you’d approached things the typical way.
Embrace the bold
They say fortune favours the bold – and so does creativity. When it comes to workplace creativity, many people are so scared of failure or criticism they tend to stick to “safe” ideas. The problem with this is that safe ideas are rarely revolutionary. Instead, try encouraging everyone to think up more ideas, both the garden variety and the wild and outrageous. At the end, you’ll have much more to work with than if you coloured within the lines. Plus, a top tip: the best ideas often fuse the bold and the more mundane, so with both under your hat you can look at creating a single powerful idea.
Change the culture
The unavoidable truth about encouraging divergent thinking in the workplace is that if your culture is wrong, it’s not going to work in the long run. Creativity and innovation are processes, not events. So if you really want to embrace divergent thinking in the workplace make sure you’re changing your culture to match. You can do this by making space every day in which employees can pursue their own idea-led projects or do something creative like doodling. You can also make creativity a systemic part of the everyday by introducing the right tools. Ayoa is a great example of a visual-led, mind mapping and task management tool which naturally encourages employees to build divergent thinking into their every process. From AI-powered mind mapping through to spatial and flexible project management, working with a creativity-oriented tool is a great way to embrace divergent thinking in your workplace today.
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