Divergent thinking has been a useful concept for understanding, supporting and measuring creativity.
The big question is, how to support our divergent thinking abilities, namely, fluency, flexibility, originality and elaboration?
The 4 components of Divergent Thinking
Original thinking is the generation of ideas that are rare or unique. It is about statistical infrequency of responses. This is closely tied to fluency and flexibility, the other two components of divergent thinking.
Fluency refers to the total number of ideas, options, solutions, generated for an open-ended problem (e.g. “List all possible uses for an umbrella”). This is a very important strength for creativity because higher fluency implies having more options to choose from.
Flexibility is based on the conceptual similarities of the answers (e.g. for an umbrella: weather, home decoration, protection, etc.).
A major reason why both fluency and flexibility are useful is because original ideas tend to come after some several unoriginal and common ideas are explored. Contrary to popular misconceptions, it takes some time, quantity and extra effort to get to original ideas.
This is called the extended effort principle and explains why higher quantities occurs in brainstorming.
If, let’s say, you have 20 answers for all possible uses of an umbrella, the biggest number of original ideas is very likely to be given after the first 10 ideas. Logically, people usually list the most common, un-original ideas first and only later reach ideas that haven’t been tried before.
The more ideas you generate, the more you will be likely to generate more “categories of ideas” AND more “original ideas”.
How to support our divergent thinking abilities?
The obvious answer is of course through regular practice, just like when you want to build a new habit. At the beginning, you may want to start with these creative warm-ups and icebreakers for example.
However, an easier way, that combines creativity and technology, is the Originality Development Engine – a mobile application developed by Brad Hokanson (professor of design at the University of Minnesota who has developed creativity in learners for over 15 years).
Each time a test is completed, a percentile rank will be displayed and the 20 most recent test scores will be saved under an email address.
The average score is about 7.5 answers per picture.
Happy Creative Thinking!