Be Creative by Cultivating Divergent Thinking

All of us have the capacity to be creative. It just takes a little out-of-the-box thinking. In our daily lives we get accustomed to doing or seeing something in the same way. This is because we become familiar with whatever we are doing through use or experience. In fact, repetitive interactions and thoughts can stop us from seeing situations in a new light or prevent us from re-purposing objects that we’ve prescribed for one use to another use.

The concept that some people can see more possibilities than others is a key idea behind creativity. One way to measure creativity in people is to examine their level of divergent thinking. The goal of divergent thinking is to generate as many ideas about a topic in a short period of time. It is a type of free-flowing, judgement-free brainstorming technique that can generate new ideas, fresh views and novel solutions.

Guidelines for improving divergent thinking abilities

  1. Defer Judgement – don’t make snap decisions about whether an idea is good or bad. Hold off judging any ideas for awhile.
  2.  Combine and Build – use one idea as a springboard for other ideas. Doing so can help improve original ideas.
  3. Seek out Wild and Crazy Ideas – go outside the box for to discover extraordinary ideas. Sometimes, really crazy ideas may not work but they may ultimately lead to innovative ideas that will work.
  4. Go for Quantity – don’t try to come up with the one best idea. Instead, work towards generating a long list of potential options.

Practice your divergent thinking skills in a group. Here’s how to do it. Gather a group of friends and come up with a list of objects or use the list provided below. Set a concrete goal for how many ideas you want to come up with and a time limit. For example, 50 ideas in ten minutes. Having a time limit sharpens your focus.

Below you will find several objects that have a specific purpose. For example, pool noodles are used for floating in a pool but did you ever consider using a pool noodle to make a Christmas wreath? Take these objects and brainstorm about all the different, crazy and wild ways you can use them that diverge from their typical use. Have fun and be creative. Remember, if you keep flexing that creative muscle of yours, your creative juices will keep flowing!

pool noodle


coffee filter

old socks


empty wine bottle or corks from wine bottles

plastic shower curtain

rubber bands

kitchen sponges

paper clips