In this era, we need a new way of thinking to successfully navigate the myriads of problems that confront us as an Individual, organization or a nation.
Last week, I appeared on a popular program (sunrise daily) on the Nigeria Television station, Channels Television. The subject of discourse was to find creative solutions to the national security challenges in Nigeria. After the program, I was inundated with series of calls and messages. While most of the callers lent their voices in support of my perspectives, there were a few others that wanted more light shed on how we could solve the problem using a human-centred approach.
I therefore wish to establish that the current national security challenges fall under what we called complex problems, they are problems that are difficult to define and tackle except we adopt a creative approach that challenges our biases, beliefs and individual interests. National insecurity is a wicked problem that is almost impossible to solve in an atmosphere of poor tolerance for divergent views. You cannot solve wicked problems if they are poorly defined and if your style is more of seeing to be doing something rather than actually doing something and doing the right thing.
Sensitive organisational or national problems need a creative problem solving methodology that embraces all views and labels no idea ‘stupid’. Adopting a divergent and convergent thinking method of a human-centred design approach may be the best framework to tackle this seemingly intractable problem. This approach challenges our rigid way of thinking. A disposition whereby every critical view is naturally tagged to be anti-establishment makes it difficult to find solution to the problem. To solve complex national and organisational problem, Leaders must transform their mindset and abandon their scarcity mentality that makes them view divergent views with suspicions. This type of thinking stifles innovation, unfortunately, those who are at the receiving end remains the people. How can we employ divergent and convergent thinking to solve national or organisational problem such as insecurity or poor performance? This piece aims at giving a bit of explanation of how the approach works and how it could benefit adopters.
To stay creative and remain open to new ideas as a leader, divergent thinking must be embraced. It’s another arrow in your quiver on the way to becoming the best leader possible, as there are great benefits to leaders who adopt a divergent way of thinking.
How divergent thinking works
Divergent thinking helps leaders to horn their leadership skills and scale up their creative capability through tolerance for other views. It is about being tolerant to all possibilities. Divergent thinking is a good brainstorming tool, it is useful in an atmosphere that encourage, open, free-flow and spontaneous ideas. It is an effective tool, I like to use on a Design Thinking project, it enables us to work with small group of multidisciplinary teams to discover and define the problem and generate possible solutions which often times comes from lots of fresh and new ideas within a short timeframe. The beauty of this approach is that we get participants to suspend all judgments because most times the best idea may initially appear ridiculous. Participants are nudged to do away with biases, to go for quantity of ideas, not quality. Having done this, we also challenge each member of the team to spontaneously build on each other’s ideas, stretch the boundaries of the imagination, come up with wild even crazy, audacious ideas.
If this process is poorly followed, the best idea may be cowed and owner of such ideas suppressed hence the best idea get unmentioned and undeveloped because the atmosphere does not encourage free speech. If Nigeria is to tackle most of her problems especially the problem of insecurity which was undoubtedly propelled by unemployment, poverty, high level of illiteracy, corruptions and injustice then a strong framework that encourage divergent thinking at all levels must be adopted.
Developed nations and flourishing organisations thrive on ideas because they have developed a culture that embraces divergent thinking, a thinking that allows free flow of ideas and a practice that ensures that the team collectively pick the best ideas.
Having generated lots of ideas, it is now time to move through the process that carefully narrows those ideas so that the best ideas may emerge. The convergent thinking phase can be likening to a fisherman approach in separating his catch. With the catch in the net, he carefully separates then in order of value, remember that there is hardly any catch that is not useful to the fisherman. Convergent thinking enables you to narrow down a large number of ideas through the process of analyzing, judging, eliminating and selecting. It enables teams to evaluate without bias the suitability of each idea, separating them into the low-hanging fruit, barely feasible, and the dream concept. Convergent thinking helps us to gain clarity, examine barriers, draw conclusions, determine the bottom-line, and select the best ideas. Can this process be adopted in tackling the insecurity problem in Nigeria, the answer is yes, if done with sincerity.
The current government must demonstrate its sincerity to want the problem resolved. The problem of insecurity will be a thing of the past if the underlying problem of exclusion, discrimination, poverty, unemployment, injustice and corruption can be tackled. To tackle this problem, the citizens must be at the centre of all solutions. The process must be owned by the people. The idea of decision-by-fiat is archaic and ineffective. The leadership practices of exclusion and suppression is a major fuel for agitation. Until the users are placed at the centre of the solution and until leaders lead with empathy, any efforts towards solving complex problems will be an unfortunate waste of resources.
Iyanda, PhD, FCA, SFNLI is Managing Partner/CEO, BROOT Consulting, Nigeria. +2348039788027