Can a water bottle give us light? Using divergent thinking to create new ideas.

The catalyst to creative ideas is divergent thinking. This is opposite of linear thinking, which is our usual habit when facing a problem and thinking up solutions. By linear I mean thinking that A leads to B and to C and so on. Like thinking there is only one use for a paper clip for example, and we don’t consider other possibilities. Did you know how a paper clip could help one man obtain a new house? (More of this story here).

Divergent thinking makes you think up several possibilities from a single idea. To do this you need to broaden your view and hold back logic and assumptions. You need to consider ALL possibilities, no matter how remote, weird, wacky or crazy they may sound. This is the essence of what lateral thinking is all about, as coined by Ed De Bono.

“Thinking” is not a monopoly of a few: anyone can do it. Yeah it sounds like a cliché, but this is the only tool you need to start being more creative. Plus a little push into how to think up new ideas and your imagination. This is when you can start connecting diverse, random ideas together.

When powered by passion and desire to create something new, companies and organisations lag way behind the ingenuity of individuals. It wasn’t a company that thought up YouTube or Facebook, it was individuals. But when they also used divergent thinking actively to create new solutions, anything is possible. When two ideas get connected to create something new, productive, acceptable, affordable, and welcomed by many, something amazing happens: innovation!

Let’s try it: we all know what a water bottle is – a cylindrical plastic container filled with water. Here’s a random idea: light bulb. Now we have two ideas, and when we connect them, we created a new idea: a water bottle gives us light. Possible? (At this point, if you said “no”, examine why not?)

But if you drop all logic and assumptions, let’s consider more possibilities:

  • A light bulb that works when water fills it up
  • A torch that works using liquid
  • A bottle filled with water and directs the sun’s rays into a darkened room

That’s how divergent thinking works in sparking off new ideas. Oh, and if you’re thinking if any of the ideas seem fantastic but may not work, watch this short clip and rethink your assumptions:

Have fun creating!

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