Thinking Outside the Box

In my post a couple of months ago, I brought up the topic of America's creativity crisis and highlighted Sir Ken Robinson's philosophy on learning.  Just this past week, the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) produced a mesmerizing animation of Robinson's talk, Changing Paradigms in Education.  In my eyes, its an example of creativity at its finest! The illustrator, Andrew Park, produces imaginative white-board sketches that match precisely with Robinson's narrative.

The visual depiction of divergent thinking was of particular interest to me, especially as I am reading Tim Brown's book Change By Design.  Seeing a clear pictorial representation helped me to easily grasp Robinson's definition of the concept:

Divergent thinking isn’t the same thing as creativity. I define creativity as the process of having original ideas that have value. Divergent thinking isn’t a synonym but is an essential capacity for creativity. It’s the ability to see lots of possible answers to a question, lots of possible ways to interpret a question, to think laterally, to think not just in linear or convergent ways, to see multiple answers, not one.

Divergent thinking is the ability to think outside the box to generate ideas (however wild they may be) that challenge boundaries.  Why is this valuable? Because it leads to innovation and breakthroughs across disciplines - in education, design, business, government, healthcare, etc.  While divergent thinking is realistically used in conjunction with convergent thinking, its is important, as Robinson emphasizes, that divergent thinking be lauded at an early age (where it comes naturally) and continuously be encouraged throughout childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.