Unboxed Life

Boldly existing outside the box through conscious living and constant learning.

Divergent Thinking And The Changing Of Paradigms

[editors note: this was supposed to go up Saturday but due to some technical difficulties and the inaccessibility of connection it is going up today with apologies and gratitude]

Do people tell you sometimes that you overanalyze things? Do they tell you that your ideas are too many and need to be reined in? Are you constantly coming up with new ways of using the same thing? Good for you. You are engaging in divergent thinking.

I say good for you because, to me, divergent thinking represents the quintessential action for escaping the boxes we live in. Basically divergent thinking represents a thought process that explores many different aspects of the same subject in a free flowing manner. The goal of divergent thinking is to look at a single situation in as many different ways as possible so as to arrive at unexpected solutions or answers: In other words, pure creativity.

For our purposes we can think of divergent thinking as a tool. By practicing the act of thinking divergently we can train our minds to not be convinced that a given or accepted solution is necessarily the correct one. We do not have to accept that we have to live our lives a certain way or that we should not explore our world more carefully. Divergent thinking can be our ticket out of the box.

Sir Ken Robinson is considered an expert in the field of divergent thinking and the idea that through its use we can shift the paradigms that exist in society that limit human capability. The video below is a great representation of his thought process in examination of the education system.

Mr. Robinson calls divergent thinking “the essential capacity for creativity.” Wow, think about that for a second. How many people can you think of that poses this capacity? Not many I bet. People who innovate and push the boundaries of what is accepted are skilled in divergent thinking. There is a burning desire to see the wall that holds us in broken down, destroyed at the hands of pure creativity that exists in these people.

It is not necessarily a high IQ that makes a person good at divergent thinking. In fact IQ plays very little into a person’s capacity for divergent thinking. A person who is a nonconformist, a creative such as an artist or musician, is willing to take risks and has fierce persistence in everything they do will be a skilled and successful divergent thinker. I have a hunch that some of these things describe you.

As we grow up and we navigate the gauntlet that is the education system and are spit out on the other side, we are instilled with the notion that things are as they say they are and we shouldn’t question them. Essentially we are striped of our ability and even our desire to execute divergent thinking.

The good news is that we can regain our ability because it is something that exists naturally in the human mind. Through systematically stifling this God given ability, the world robs us of our capacity to think divergently and thus is able to control pure creativity, which is the enemy of conformity. It is through conscious effort and sustained practice that we can repopulate our mind with the divergent thinking tool. There are accepted steps one can take to regain this ability through practice and perseverance:

  1. Creating lists of questions
  2. Setting aside thinking or meditation time
  3. Brainstorming
  4. Subject Mapping
  5. Journaling
  6. Free writing

These are just a few things we can do to retrain our brains to think divergently. As time goes on with regular flexing of your mental muscle you can learn to see things not for what they are, but what they can be. This will be an invaluable tool as you begin to free yourself from the boxes you live in, an essential companion on the journey to unending learning and unbridled experience.

Divergent thinking represents an ally in the fight against boxes, a powerful tool in your quest to explore the larger world and experience the fullness of the human condition. I challenge your to hone this skill, to accept its value and to apply it to your life. What things have you done or will you do to practice divergent thinking? What affect has it had on your life thus far? What ideas can you offer to help aspiring divergent thinkers find the path to pure creativity? Let us know below and engage in the conversation. Together we can take action to free ourselves from our boxes and leave the world a better place because of it.

photo: Rex Maximilian

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6 comments on “Divergent Thinking And The Changing Of Paradigms

  1. John Paton
    June 8, 2012

    I love those animated talks. Ken Robinson is great also! I like the suggestion to set aside more meditating time. This is definitely a practice I want to develop.

    • Tanner Colton
      June 8, 2012

      Me too, I was blown away the first time I saw that video. Really enjoy the way they present complex materials. Thanks again John!

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