Monday Morning Quick Tip: Think Differently


In a speech to the Royal Society on re-thinking education, Sir Ken Robinson talks about the need to approach problems in different ways. He suggests that instead of our normal modes of linear thought, or convergent thought, that we ought to foster divergent thinking.

Robinson explains that the modes of thinking we foster are designed for a world of linearity and the production and reproduction of industrial goods and labor. In order to break out of that mold, Robinson suggests that we need to foster more creative thinking of the type we’re all really good at as kids. It’s a really interesting argument, and it has some very serious implications for education. But what does it have to do with speech-making?

We Need to Think Differently

Sir Ken offers an example of divergent thinking by suggesting that you think of things you can do with a paper clip. Somebody who is good at divergent thinking might come up with 200 or more ideas.

That’s a tall order. This is a skill that young children do particularly well at, but that we seem to have beaten out of us as we get older. But preparing for an audience is an ideal opportunity to strengthen your divergent thinking muscles once again. Start looking at your topics in new ways. Try to think about them much the same way as you thought about that paper clip exercise. How many different ways can you think to approach that subject? What angles might prove fruitful for new lines of inquiry? What can you create with your audience?

Hearing new ideas delivered in fresh and exciting ways is a sure-fire method for grabbing the attention of your audience. It is risky to try something new. It is exciting to help your audience warm up their own latent divergent thinking instruments. If you think differently, your audience will start to think differently. So start with a paperclip, and give it some practice. Soon, you may find yourself making a bigger difference than you thought possible.

Oh, and check out Sir Ken’s fascinating speech (with this awesome white-board animation!):

Photo credit: Red Paperclips by Chris J. Weed