Creating, imagining, and innovating are supported when we foster divergent thinking. Divergent thinking is the ability to think “outside the box.” It means that we value it when youth think for themselves instead of operating on the “lemming principle.” There is a movie that came out in the 1989, Dead Poet’s Society. In this movie the teacher encourages youth to seize the day. In one scene the students are moving around with the exception of one who is standing very still. The character states, “I’m exercising the right not to walk.” In other words, he was exercising divergent thinking. This is something we need to encourage. Rather than the conformity mentality—everyone doing the same thing at the same time in the same way, let’s ask youth to create, imagine, and innovate. Let’s ask questions like, “What are 15 things you could do with a brick?” or “What are 20 things you could make out of Legos other than a simple building?” or “What could you design and create with a 3 D printer?” or “How can hydroponics be a viable option for food production?”
There are people out there asking and answering these questions. They are people who don’t just see things like they are but ask, “How might this be different or better?” We need to encourage youth to think in this way and ask those questions. Our young people are facing a world that is yet to be invented and will change countless times during their adult lives. Change is a fact of life. So let’s help youth learn to do something amazing with the intellect and imagination they have.
Divergent thinkers see possibilities and opportunities. They have a mindset that asks.”What’s going on here?” and “How can we make it better?” They look to find a number of solutions to the challenges they encounter. They imagine a time when this would work perfectly. They seldom think of things as one and done. Ask yourself where would the auto industry be if Henry Ford’s Model T was still the only auto you could buy? Or how informed would we be if you could still only get one channel on your TV, and that one was only live from 6:00-8:00 at night? Or…you fill in the blanks. Divergent thinking broadens horizons and helps us all to see the world differently.
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