Divergent Thinking , Ideation and Creativity

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Ideation is a common term in design that is just describing the process of brainstorming concepts, ideas and solutions. As a concept, it’s a little difficult to define it from an academic perspective. After all, it all comes down to — how do we learn to think more creatively?

Creativity is a skill that we can teach our brain to through practice, just like other skills. The more you intentionally explore and allow yourself to be inspired by new ideas outside of your bubble, the more comfortable and familiar you feel with thinking further, bigger, and creatively.

The brief psychology behind the creative thought

Humans have a left brain which controls logical, analytical thoughts and a right-brain which controls intuitive, artistic thoughts. Although design and ideation are considered to be the result of creative thinking process, yet they still require use of both a person’s left and right brain to generate solutions, imagine future outcomes, while taking into account real context, hypothesis and constraints. A strong designer has the quality of someone that is willing to be pragmatic, yet bold enough to dream big. To visual this, consider (re)visiting the Double Diamond Model created by the British Design Council in 2005.

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Divergent thinking is is a term that created in 1956 by psychologist, J.P. Guilford. It refers to a thought process or method used to explore many possible answers or solutions without limitation to generate more ideas. Divergent thinking practice can be achieved by:

  • Brain-writing/Brain-dumping
  • The Mash-up Method
  • Making and Challenging Assumptions
  • Mind Mapping
  • Storyboarding
  • Sketch Storming
  • How Might We Questions
  • Insight Statements
  • 6–8–5 Sketching

(and more).

The role of creativity in design

Creativity is one of the biggest factor in both useful and pleasing designs. If you’re a UX designer like me, you’re expected to fulfill different expectations from different individuals. For example, a client might consider the uniqueness and usability of your product while a stakeholder might ask you to bring a better value. Marketing department might consider the visual pleasure and convenience, the developers expect the transparency, business owner expects the best impression and a user wants something that works and being pleased in the process of using your product. Because of the wide range of expectations, your creativity is the tool for you fulfill a lot of people with a lot of ideas.

Some might believe the end result defines one’s creativity. It’s actually not true, what matters more is the journey, the process you follow that created the end result, but this is still not enough. The origin of your end result and the value you created through the process of creation is the best thing you can bring to the table.

Make your creativity to work for you

You can achieve your creative goals by training your brain. Thinking with specific intention eventually makes your brain to thrive to achieve your goals faster, think better and be more creative.

Identify your intention

From the very beginning, think what specifically you want to be creative about. Once you identify your target, your attention will naturally work for your goal. State and write your focus, and remind yourself.

Take breaks

Your design looks different from its initial form after you come back from a good break even nothing changes. Biologically, when you focus too much on a specific matter using your brain’s attention network, its imagination network system becomes weak. Do something that doesn’t require a lot of attention, and come back and regain your brain’s potential. Ideally, go to bed early or take a nap.

Record your ideas

I always use 30 seconds rule to “marry” my ideas right away. When something creative comes to my mind, if it’s worth considering in the future, I usually send myself a text within 30 seconds, or write it down somewhere. If you have someone to share your ideas with, share it quick and discuss it. It not only brings joy, but also helps your brain to re-evaluate your creativity.

Encourage yourself to be creative

Self-talk, journaling, affirmations… intentional self-reminders help in certain levels. Encourage yourself to be creative and remind yourself that you are a unique human and your ideas are valuable. There are some great podcasts to listen to, do your research :)

Switch between the highs and the lows

Research shows a creative person have the ability to zoom in and out, from the high level to the detail. You can practice by dividing your time between working on details and larger structure, and do it back in force.

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