In our BB training we use the terms Divergent & Convergent thinking during the Improve phase. We cover a raft of brainstorming & lateral thinking techniques to encourage people’s divergent thinking. So please take a few moments to answer this question:

  • How many uses can you think of for a Brick?

How many did you get? Maybe you got just the one, “build a wall”? Or maybe you freely came-up with half a dozen? We could possibly use brainstorming here; try answering the question as if you were Pablo Picasso. Does that work?

Looking in more detail at this took me to Liam Hudson who devised this simple test to illustrate people’s thinking styles. But what Liam did was look deeper into the way we are educated to be Convergent thinkers.

The school system is based on achievement of exam results. This means being able to understand information and produce Model Answers that most accurately match what the examiner wants to see. Being good at this convergent thinking brings its rewards, recognition and good jobs become available.

Equally to what degree is divergent thinking encouraged. Starting an exam paper with, “I think the real question to answer here is……” or “I have looked at the course curriculum and believe it should be changed here and here”.

So what is the potential impact of focussing on Convergent thinking without balancing Divergent thinking? To what degree do the most successful people across industry focus on having a sense of imagination to challenge an approach? Who were the people who looked at the risks building in the financial system and saw the consequences?

It seems we should be regularly training and rewarding people for Divergent thinking rather than having as a small part of a BB training they might attend.

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