Building a Culture of Creativity Using Divergent Thinking

In many companies, employees often hear from their bosses that they need to be creative. Unfortunately, those bosses seldom tell them how. If you’re a business leader and care about creativity, you must make it a part of the work culture and facilitate it

February 2024

Dan Hunter


What is divergent thinking?

It can be helpful to attack any creative problem-solving challenge with two thought approaches: convergent thinking, where you use pre-existing knowledge to draw a logical solution, and divergent thinking, where you apply your imagination to find the solution because there is no pre-existing knowledge. Most people learn to use convergent thinking because it tends to be quicker and more dependable; unfortunately, it only works when you need to solve familiar problems.

Divergent thinking can be time-consuming, but it is closely associated with creativity and used by many creative-oriented corporations. To persuade your team to adopt divergent thinking, at least sometimes, try the methods below.

Set up a combination of convergent and divergent thought

The sporting gear maker Nike encourages its designers to alternate between divergent and convergent thinking for the best results. Designers adopt divergent thinking when they need to understand what the market would find exciting. When they come up with an idea, they switch to convergent thinking to refine it into a commercially viable product

Aim for a diverse team

Setting up divergent thinking in an individual is different from setting it up in a team. In a group, an important approach involves bringing in people from very different backgrounds. Their different points of view could make for a powerful way to bring new, out-of-the-box viewpoints to the group.

Introduce accepted, divergent thought strategies

Any business organization requires divergent thinking for ideating and creating innovative concepts, and then convergent thinking to exploit those innovative ideas for commercial gain. Mind mapping is one possibility. You start with one direction to take, put it down on paper, brainstorm, and put every new idea down on paper to help you see how the ideas connect. The SCAMPER technique analyzes what assumptions might be in the background when you approach a problem and then challenge those assumptions.

Introduce journaling

Keeping a journal of ideas can be a productive way to think divergently. Seeing your thoughts written down over time can be a powerful way to get the mind to find a new angle.

When you introduce divergent thinking to your team, you're likely to do it for the culture of innovation that it’s likely to bring in, but it can do more. A team that uses divergent thinking can experience more flexibility and an increase in morale. Divergent thinking can help make your team better in every way while reinforcing creativity in your workplace culture.

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