Harnessing the power of divergent thinking
“People who refer to out-of-the-box see the box … People who don’t know the box even exists are the innovative thinkers.”
― Lisa Goldenberg
Ideation is about tolerating ambiguity; accepting that the ideation process is divergent by nature, and that you may not immediately be able to identify the best solution with absolute certainty.
Rejecting the notion of the single, simple answer, and continuing to search for potentially better ideas that might still be hiding around the corner, is what determines the success of any ideation process.
For some people, this ambiguity is difficult to accept, and represents a loss of control that they fear will be unproductive and result in a waste of time; that you will be making things too complicated simply because uncertainty is an inherent part of the ideation process.
These people are typically either analysis-driven strategists, or process-driven producers. They quantify success either by the clarity and singularity of the purpose, or by the efficiency and flawlessness of the execution. What they typically fail to account for is, that inbetween insightful strategy and flawless execution comes tactical ideation, where a clearly stated strategic goal gets connected to a purposeful plan of execution through a divergent set of conceptual solutions, each which may represent a viable path forward, possibly for different reasons, and all of which should at least be considered and evaluated with an open mind.
Ideation requires big picture thinking before you get into the details; before you can afford to get too specific. Without context, determining the appropriateness of an idea is mere guesswork. Sometimes, you need to think big and think broad in order to define even one single isolated detail, even if that one detail ultimately ends up being all that gets produced. However, jumping straight to that deceptively simple-looking detail is not meaningful – no solution exists in a vacuum.
The scale of the thought is not necessarily proportionate to the scope of the work. Just because the ideation process hints at a more complex whole, doesn’t mean that the solution has to be complex as well, or that it necessarily needs to be holistic in nature.
Even an umbrella needs complex weather systems to be useful. Before you know what the weather systems are like, you should not conclude that the umbrella is the answer to the problem – even if it may initially look like an appealingly simple solution.
Don’t get lost in the single-minded hunt for what’s executable, before you consider what is actually worth executing, and why.