If you know a little about psychology, you’ll have heard about convergent and divergent thinking. People, who are scientifically inclined with a good head for math are mostly convergent thinkers. Divergent thinkers, as you expected, are bad at math and science,
Convergent thinking involves looking at a finite number of solutions to come up with a definite answer. For instance, a convergent thinker will quickly tell you that 1 + 1 = 2. A divergent thinker, on the other hand, will look at the problem in different ways and come up with multiple solutions. So 1 + 1 can be 11 or it can be something worth the price of an orange!
Divergent thinkers may not get the right ideas or answers all the time, but they surely get a lot of ideas, which can be a blessing for any writer. It is imperative that content strategists are good at divergent thinking and look at various angles of the story or topic so they can create rich, engaging and interesting content all the time.
In this article, we’ll examine some of the basic traits of a divergent thinker that you can emulate, so as to come up with new and unique content every time. Whether you are writing sales copy or designing a tutorial, it is important to think divergently so that your content explores and covers all aspects of a problem.
Bet Big on Brainstorming
Seasoned divergent thinkers are good at brainstorming. From jotting down related keywords to forming linear relations between ideas, there are several ways they brainstorm.
If you have a team of writers, get everyone to brainstorm on a Monday morning. It is a great way to kick-start the week. Learn how to create a mind map. They are great for connecting the dots between random ideas and navigating uncharted territories.
For instance, if you are writing sports content, try to find all positive and negative ideas related to sports and then you can come up with new content topics based on these loosely related ideas.
You can find trending topics on Quora, Twitter, BuzzFeed, Reddit, Cracked, etc. You could also try out tools like Portent’s Title Maker or RYP’s Idea Generator to get a few quick and easy headline ideas.
The best way to be a good divergent thinker is to not judge your ideas early on. Delay judgement for as long as possible. Nothing bursts creativity like negative comments and criticism. Whether judging yourself, a team member, client, vendor or partner, hold off judgement for as long as you can take to examine all possible facets.
A stifling atmosphere where ideas are not openly accepted could sound the death knell for creativity. It is very important to adopt a freewheeling attitude at meetings so people can come up with ideas without restrain and heedless of consequences.
Extend Your Limits to the Sky
When building a list of ideas, remember that sky is the limit.
The best quality in divergent thinkers is that they don’t take themselves too seriously. You too should have the ability to laugh on yourself and your ideas. No idea should be too outrageous or too crazy to be not spoken out loud.
At the risk of regurgitating what has been said a million times elsewhere, I want to remind you that when you start brainstorming, quantity should take precedence over quality. You just have to find a lot of ideas, solution pathways and possible answers. If you’re finding it difficult to think of new ideas, seek help from friends, customers, associates, anyone! You could even organize simple contests to encourage persuade people to participate in the process.
For instance, Felixstowe Sewing School held a simple I love to sew because competition and these are some of the answers they received:
…it inspires me to live my dream of designing dresses in Paris. I think the world is a better place with fluffy hand sewn owls, Christmas decorations, ginger bread kits and special snowflakes! (Amber)
…it feels amazing to make something out of nothing and I feel resourceful when recycling old material x (Leonie)
These ideas give you a glimpse into people’s needs, beliefs and notions about the world; and I quickly came up with these related blog topics:
- Make Yourself a Christmas Tree Card Holder
- 5 Snowman Pillow Designs That Will Put You to Sleep
- Minions or Rudolph – What’s Your Christmas Stocking Going to Look Like?
- 10 DIY Tricks for making Christmas Stockings
- 35 ‘Christmassy’ Things You Can Make from Old Socks
- How to Sew Christmas Tree Skirts from Your Unwanted Dresses
Granted, these might be too BuzzFeed-y for your liking, but remember what I said about quantity while brainstorming?
Ideas are everywhere; you just need to know how to get them. So go ahead, create forms and questionnaires and email them to your newsletter subscribers. You can use an integrated email marketing solution like GetResponse to build custom forms and integrate them on your Facebook, website or blog, and present them to specific customer segments. Ask them the most pressing questions and tune in to their responses.
From local businesses to behemoths like the BBC, everyone is “crowdsourcing” new ideas. The BBC gained access to loads of user generated content after their “What if” contest, where hundreds of users submitted videos and photos envisioning their idea of the future. In another instance, CLUE (Community Lighting for the Urban Environment) invited ideas from young minds to come up wih lighting concepts that are environment friendly. These companies are really attuned to the public’s emotions and generate content by bouncing ideas off it.
Explore Grey Areas
For a convergent thinker, things are either black or white. For instance, a convergent thinker is prone to think that a given person loves or hates them. Grey areas like admiration, envy, charm, liking, respect, etc. rarely come into the equation. A divergent person will frequently explore these grey areas and take the relationship in new directions.
Let me give you another example. If you ask a convergent thinker, “How was your day?” they will say either good or bad. But a divergent thinker will consider all the facts and give you a more descriptive answer.
Here’s an illustration of how convergent and divergent thinkers think of a workplace.
Divergent people are more attuned to their intuitions and emotions which is why they see more answers to the same question or more solutions to the same problem.
If you are a convergent thinker, stop thinking in extremes; think of different shades and tones ranging all through two or more extremes. The world is not black or white. Or even grey. Get in touch with your innermost thoughts so that you can explore these colourful areas.
What do you get when you marry two random, vague ideas together?
An absolutely fantastic content topic!
Don’t believe me?
Let’s say I have to write a piece on competitor research and happen to be watching Fast and Furious and eureka! I have an absolutely fun topic to write:
10 Secrets to Beating Your Competitors from Hollywood
The article is bound to have it all – chase scenarios, hair-raising graphic images, titillating section headings, and all that jazz.
For divergent thinkers, no topic is too off the chart. Their ability to come up with great topics comes from their ability to marry ideas! And just as a marriage of two polar opposite people works best, the marriage of two polar opposite ideas results in the best content!
So here is the gist of all traits that you need to emulate so you can come up with fantastic content ideas every time.
- Build an open atmosphere where you regularly brainstorm
- Seek opinions of people within as well as outside your organization (who aren’t necessarily tied to your objectives)
- Develop the ability to see beyond the obvious
- Learn to connect dots
- Explore grey areas and taboos
Once you adopt these traits, it will be easier for you to create a rich content strategy (and calendar) with interesting, informative and enlightening content all the time!