Original Thought · Self Improvement

Divergent Thinking

Breaking out of the mold we have shaped for ourselves and our future requires 3 P’s; Passion, Patience and Persistence. More on the P’s in future posts. To continue the process of discovering original ideas discussed in the post Where Do Original Ideas Come From? let’s begin with divergence.

divergent thinker

Begin with wicked question – like ” How can we reduce the amount of time that commuters spend in congestion?” and then restate the question so it doesn’t contain the answer. ” Can we improve the time spent in congestion and reduce the impacts on health?” (better). Research shows that commuters who spend more than 3 hours a week in congestion (not commuting time but trapped in gridlock) are 40% more likely to suffer from hypertension, obesity, and diabetes. My experience is that I am stressed, angry and less creative after just 20 minutes stopped or slow n’go on the freeway. It would seem that our collective mental health is compromised us stewing in an out-of-our-control mess. So rather than just thinking about reducing commute times, maybe we can find a different solution by asking a bigger question. “Can we make the journey from home to work and back more enjoyable, less stressful, and without negative impacts on mental and physical health?” (improved)

For sake of expediency and to attempt to develop a sample case to illustrate what comes from divergence, I will begin with that question.

Can we make the journey from home to work and back more enjoyable, less stressful, and without negative impacts on mental and physical health?

I will freeform a list (In practice, it would be better and more creative to do this with a small group of diverse folks) that begins with the obvious and attempts to get to the ridiculous.

Tele-commute           more roads           fewer cars           work closer           ride share         books on tape             scheduled commute times                             flexible commute times more public transit   fewer licenses      car yoga             smaller cars     autonomous vehicles personal hovercraft   chauffeur             hyperloop           teleportation               HOV lanes improved coordination     timed ramp closures        dedicated distance lanes             commuter car trains       sleep while travel           sleep at work         casual conversation drugs    conversation w/other commuter     early start      later start         Animate ride                bigger cars with more people       gamify ride                  incentive for later commute incentive for early start        toll roads          15 freeway passes per month                             roads move not cars        safe distance radar       Uber mid way garage transit lots free premium freeway service      disposable cars      kites       use river        fly ride motorcycle ride bike    walk    skateboard    Segway    tech engaged car           health monitoring insurance reduction behaviour        driver alternating      sing along car2car     test prep heads up navigation     congestion warning       police escort convey           clearance complete lane reversal        4 into 5 at rush      increase speed      decrease speed

The list is obviously not comprehensive and if 5 folks were freeforming the list would be 2 or 3 times longer. I am going to take the next 24 hours to let the commute problem wrestle in my subconscious and trust that a few more crazy notions will rise up. I will add them to the list tomorrow. For now, I encourage you to add to the list by suspending disbelief for 15 minutes and letting anything and everything make it through your censors. If you have a bit of  courage after Intentionally Scaring Yourself post your best and worst in the comments.

Make Today Remarkable by breaking the box,


Self Improvement

Where Do Original Ideas Come From?

Where do novel ideas come from? From deep study and reflection on the examples we already have or from wide and ranging discovery of paths not connected to the way we understand the present? Convergent or divergent?

I can get stuck in one or the other easily but have recognized that the most original and novel ideas come from doing both multiple times. In a world that is looking for predictability, because that is what we know and where we feel safe, the impetus is to land on one solution too quickly. The choice might seem logical and maybe even clever because it aligns with something we can relate to a previous experience. “A is like b and B worked when we did C’. Some decisions we make can survive and thrive in opting for predictability. If we are looking to get more of the same for the next year it works to use charts and tables and forecasts. If I want to lose 5 more pounds and it took burning 17500 more calories than I took in over 10 days to lose the last 5 pounds, I could predict a similar pattern for the next 10 day 5 pound plan.


But, the world we are living in is changing; changing faster than we can imagine or believe is possible. Fortune 500 companies use to spend an average of 65 years at the top of their game, now the might make 7. The things I take for granted in communication; Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, Smartphones, didn’t exist 5 or 6 years ago. When I was in high school I took computer programming and needed to take my punch cards to the university to run on a computer that filled a large room. Now my cell phone has 100 times the power. In 5 years it will compute at the speed of the human brain and by 2050 it will have the power of all of humanity. Electric cars, hover boards, MOOCs, Pokemon GO … The world is changing fast. I can’t use prediction to forecast accurately what action I need to take today to be on track 2 months from now. Adaptability and flexibility will become the most important skills for the next generation or at least for the next while. The ability and comfort to thrive in ambiguity will be the difference between making a difference and being forgotten.

So I arrive at the conclusion that we need to do many things, most things, maybe everything differently. To get there we need to break out of the prison of bias and mediocrity. We need a plan to knock down the bars and make a great escape. This will take some diligence. Think like you are making a break from Alcatraz or Smokey Mountain Penitentiary. Nobody succeeded because they were all trying the same thing. How widely and wildly can you think about the problem? Can you imagine enough possibilities that you list a dozen crazy ideas? And then how do you decide on which ones make the first cut? second? Final?

Over the next couple of posts I am going to think about divergence and convergence then for a couple of posts work through convergence back to divergence and arrive at an original idea.

Make Today Remarkable, by thinking crazy thoughts,