Divergent Thinking




Something I got a lot of praise for in school was my creativity and my ability to write evocative stories, my ability to draw buildings and maps (people, forget it; animals, depends). I still have a vase I made and painted, in my mother’s lounge room. I still have a toolbox and table I made in woodwork class, I was bad at the manual labour, but I was a bloody legend with the poker burner and people actually offered money to get me to put their ideas on their woodwork (the Metallica logo for one). I still have the coffee table I made in 10th grade. I was inspired by Final Fantasy 8, among other things, and my designs reflected that.

Reading this blog post by my friend, I can see how homogenized typical thinking is, as we are taught to “grow up and fit in” and to think like everyone else to do so. Now, social skills are not a *bad* thing to have – in fact they’re critical in your ability to have a life worth living – but understanding how to fake it in order to fit in, and how to think creatively, outside the box, and relate how *you* think that way, is definitely a pro. You’re essentially conveying your ideas, which are something that resonates with you, to other people, which means explaining them like you would to a five year old (but also respecting the listener’s basic human understanding and ability to think for themselves).

At Uni, I wowed people with my script ideas, because they were so resonant and cool and I was so passionate about them, and for that reason I, and a couple of others from a writing degree background, went into Film and TV with an imagination.

I also had my video game level idea presented to the class as an example, which was also a proud moment for me. In that, you were chased by an ice monster from a portal, through the halls of (totally not my Tafe campus) before a nastier monster came out. There were obstacles and enemies to impede progress. What I had, though, was an idea. It was more than what most had. And I was happy to hear other people’s suggestions for levels too, of course, because I was the guy with the imagination.

Imagination, then, is… what is imagination? Well, here’s a few jobs where imagination *isn’t* a requirement: Lawyer. Copy writer. Accountant. Business admin. Tech support. Government. Mechanical trades. Warehousing. Shipping (unless it’s practical and solves a problem that would otherwise get people killed or injured). Security, although *some* understanding of the human psyche is a bare minimum. Zoology. Doctors. Nurses, well, if they are positive and are able to help patients through encouraging creativity, that’s good for the patient’s morale). Psychology, hard to say, but understanding creativity is key because you’d get a lot of creative types in your office). Teachers… the fun subjects like history and English and art are sought after by all and trust me, they’re never hiring.

I think I’ve lost the point I was trying to make, but basically, I think my writer friend Talitha is on the ball with this Divergent Thinking thing. Kids get it. Kids are looking for imagination, anything to keep them from being bored. They make shit up like it’s the most natural thing in the world. To them, unburdened by “adult responsibilities”, ie money, relationships, jobs, taxes, laws, growing up, growing older, health, life changes, injuries, disabilities, sex, entertainment, housing needs, social security… to kids who’ve yet to really experience the difficulties of life, playing in the sand pit or on the playground or with toy lightsabers or with dolls/action figures, life is such a wonderful thing. Then you’re forced to go to school and get Education shoved down your throat, told what to think, and how to behave, and lectured on White Guilt (ie my entire education in Australia) and that Video Games Are Bad For You (when Shakespeare was sword fights, dick jokes, sex and drugs, and the great works of art that stand the test of time are typically those that depict bloody battle, sex, drugs, or whatever is taboo at some point. Or a can of soup. Yeah. That’s Art, apparently. God bless you, Warhol.)

Somewhere between “play in the sand pit with light sabers and Power Rangers” and “I really have to study for this final or my dad will send me to military academy because I don’t live up to his anti-communist sentiment” we tend to lose the ability, the inclination, the power, to think TRULY creatively. That means, outside the box. Not another brick in the wall. Hence you get American Idiot blowing your fucking mind. Hence Idiocracy is actively fucked by the industry until it gets a measly DVD release with no exposure, and slowly plots its revenge and raises an army of followers and becomes a dystopian documentary/horror flick when all it wanted to be was a comedy. And how Terrorists capture our imagination and we have no ideas so we turn to movie makers to answer our questions about what to do. (Yes, I’m talking South Park’s Imaginationland). And how everything’s Batman. EVERYTHING.

Honestly, I lost the point I was only half interested in trying to make, somewhere in all that. But thinking “yeah, that’s tried and true, but what if you did it this way instead?” is a good practice. As long as you know what the reasons for doing it the standard way are, at least.

If you are some “misunderstood genius” who doesn’t even comprehend, let alone understand, the way people think, or how the industry, trade or business works in the first place, though, you’re going to fail. Because you’re an idiot. And being an arrogant prick about it will not do you any favours.

So understand WHY the system is in place, think about how the human mind works, understand why your ideas might or might not work out, and then think about how you might convince people to take a chance on your alternative way of doing these things. Do that, and who knows, you might become the next Steve Jobs. (but don’t count on it, you’re not that special, and if you are, SHOW IT through actions that gather traction to the effect of “that’s an awesome idea, you should get money for it!”).


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