Divergent or lateral thinking is characterized by the ability to generate multiple and ingenious solutions for the same problem. It is a spontaneous, fluid and non-linear mental concentration, which is based on curiosity and nonconformity. In reality it is also a very common way of thinking in children, for whom joy, imagination and freshness offer more freedom to reasoning.
In a society where everyone has similar skills, there comes a time when large companies start evaluating other skills, other dimensions that offer ingenuity, vitality and authentic human capital for their projects. A person capable of providing innovation, creativity and new goals can therefore become an excellent candidate for many of these organizational projects.
Although he emphasized the importance of training children in this latter mental approach, educational institutions did not pay much attention to him. In general, they gave and give priority to a reflection (or rather, the lack thereof) in which the student must apply linear thinking and a set of rules and processes to achieve a single solution, which is defined as correct.
If it is true that on many occasions this strategy is useful and necessary, we must admit that real life is too complex, dynamic and imprecise for us to believe that our problems have only one option. Therefore, we must develop real divergent thinking.
For this reason, there are many educational centers that encourage their students not to just find the right answer. The goal is to be able to create and suggest new questions.
We are aware that even one idea can be difficult to come up with initially. However, there are people who can give numerous responses and ingenious ideas, as they have a high potential for what Edward de Bono in his day had called „lateral thinking“.
Divergent thinking is able to find relationships between ideas, concepts and processes that apparently bear no resemblance. Creative psychologists tell us that people have different association mental networks:
•People with „steep“ semantic networks are governed more by logic and linear thinking.
• People with „flat“ semantic networks have much more connected yet flexible mental networks. This means that sometimes they relate two things that do not make sense, but gradually use other networks until they reach an ingenious and innovative idea.
We have all heard of the theory that tells us that the right hemisphere is the creative one, while the left one is the logical one. Based on this, people who use divergent or lateral thinking will preferentially use the right hemisphere. Actually we have to be cautious with such ideas about lateralization or cerebral dominance, because there are many nuances.
We cannot see the brain as an entity with demarcated areas. In fact, when we have to create an idea, whether it is ingenious, conservative, logical or highly creative, we use this organ in its entirety. However, the key is how we connect one idea with another. The most ingenious people make use of tree thinking, meaning their brain connections are very intense in both hemispheres, not in one. To be able to solve a logical problem, our mind uses many very different strategies. One of these is the „thinking by analogy“ which consists in seeking in the past experience of the elements that can be transferred to the present case by applying knowledge related to a known situation to an unknown situation. Another frequently used strategy is „inductive reasoning“ which consists of the formation of concepts, where various experiences allow us to derive a general principle that can be useful for the present case (from the particular case we derive a general conclusion). Another strategy, diametrically opposite, is the „deductive reasoning“ where from a general principle the inverse path of induction can be taken and particular conclusions drawn. In the situations analyzed so far, however, there is always an initial layer that must be transformed into a well-defined final state.
However, it often happens that you do not have a precise idea of the goal to be achieved, where the point of arrival is not already given but must be found or invented. In these cases, „creativity“, defined as a particular way of thinking, plays a predominant role, creating a break with existing models and introducing something new. In this case the thought becomes creative.