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The Necessity of Divergent Thinking

Divergent thinking is a reference to a process or method that engages multiple paradigms for viewing problems in order to spark new creative solutions. It requires the intentional move away from the norm of addressing issues and the embrace of perspectives that may even be contrary to one’s own.

People like Steve Jobs and Leonardo DaVinci have been known to mix various perspectives and disciplines in order to achieve great innovation. This kind of openness and view of divergent thinking as necessity is key to sparking creativity.

Unfortunately, too many people ignore or shut down altering views in the name of organizational focus. This is a classic mistake. The pursuit of narrowing one’s organizational focus is far different from seeking clarity of focus. Clarity of focus provides much needed parameters and direction for one’s work. Narrowing of focus blinds one from seeing the vast array of opportunities and perspectives that ultimately will allow the organization to flourish. Solely narrowing an organization’s focus creates blind spots and stunts innovation.

Organizations who have clarity of focus know who they are (& who they are not) and yet continue to open their doors to new ideas, even from those who may differ. They recognize that creativity often lies in these unexpected collisions of ideas. They know that respectfully welcoming divergent thought is necessary for growth.

I’m definitely not suggesting that you accept everyone’s thoughts as true or equal. Truth by nature is exclusive. If you have two people that are stating completely contrary views on reality (e.g., It is raining outside.), both can’t be right. Isn’t tolerance about disagreeing with someone and yet respecting their right to hold another view? If we all agree, what’s there to be tolerant about?

Nevertheless, in areas where it is not so black and white, we will miss out on discovering better solutions when we cut away relational ties with those with divergent thought.

Embrace and engage difference. It’s good for the organizational soul!

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Charles is the CEO & Chief Idea-Maker at Ideation, a brand innovation company that specializes in helping businesses & organizations build remarkable brands via innovative business design, organizational change architecture, brand integration, design, web, and marketing services. He is also the author of Good Idea. Now What?: How to Move Ideas to Execution, a practical book designed to help people move ideas to implementation. Charles is regularly invited to speak to leading companies and organizations on topics such as creativity, innovation, idea-making, and branding. Executive leaders from brands including Wells Fargo, Toyota, The White House, Catalyst, William Morris Endeavor, mun2, Council of Urban Professionals, Chick-fil-A, and many others have benefited from having Charles present at their key events.