Divergent Lenses

Have we lost our sense of imagination or just how to properly use it? I propose that we collectively need to fall down the rabbit hole with purpose on a recurring basis.

Approaching a problem through your own context creates a narrow solution funnel. You must be willing to get out of your own head for a bit and think about a problem from other vantage points.

If I had an hour to solve a problem I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions. - Albert Einstein

Jumping straight into solution generation can lead to only making modest steps forward. If you are only focused on solutions, you are actively cheating yourself out of unique discoveries and novel combinations that only come through deep thought.

Focused thought will uncover numerous potential solutions by evaluating the underlying issues thoroughly. The biggest problems aren’t always the most obvious. You must be willing to review your thoughts several times to see the small gaps.

We all have our own unique areas of expertise, but the insight granted through expertise always comes with peripheral blinders. This produces unintentional information unawareness. This process conditions you to unintentionally overlook information. Refusing to acknowledge your blind spot will likely cause you to not consider what lies beyond it.

Two great methods for overcoming your biases are teaming up with people that have different skill sets and putting yourself into the mindsets of others.

A specialist is a man who knows more and more about less and less. - William J. Mayo

The best way to mitigate an information bias is by constantly changing your routine.

  • Force yourself into intellectually uncomfortable areas
  • Consciously decide to deviate from your normal daily routine
  • Seek information outside of your professional sphere
  • Find commonalities between two disparate items

Comfort will lead to sloth and sloth to your business being disrupted. You must constantly disrupt yourself and your business or your competition will. A great workout utilizes muscle confusion to build mass, in the same way, you must use discomfort to enhance your perspective.

Using divergent lenses as a metaphor let us consider several ocular devices and how they affect our understanding.

  • Telescope - This helps us understand distance (the future) but limits our perception by only focusing the lens on one eye. The information gained will be useful but incomplete.
  • Microscope - Microscopes are great at lending awareness and detail to situations that may go unnoticed by the unaided eye. The drawback with this level of detail is that we may be oblivious to the larger vision or trend around us.
  • Glasses - A pair of glasses will bring additional clarity when properly prescribed. The tradeoff with glasses is that our peripheral vision may be partially blocked and we may miss subtleties on the fringes.
  • Binoculars - These will give us more accurate depth perception than a telescope, but will completely block our peripheral vision. Constantly using binoculars would also make completing close range tasks challenging.
  • Periscope - This device is similar to a telescope with the added bonus of adding vertical awareness. We may be able to see over some obstacles, however, it has the same drawbacks as the telescope.
  • Kaleidoscope - A kaleidoscope may not directly aid our vision, but it does have its place. It provides a unique approach for discovering patterns. I also believe this device is essentially a form of visualized imagination.

Using some or all of the devices mentioned would produce a more reliable, detailed and interesting account. This is also the case for mentally exercised divergent lenses. Using multiple vantage points and perspectives will produce more compelling and robust solutions.

Don’t oppose ideas that seem outlandish at first. Your goal isn’t to focus on wild ideas or to brush a potential idea off without consideration. Your goal is to start with an idea and use focused imagination and divergent lenses to properly vet its worth.

Rally your team using divergent lenses as a catalyst for strategy and discovery. Revisiting this approach will help you identify and mitigate personal biases and knowledge gaps. Great discoveries never come from the status quo, unleash your potential.

This article was previously published on LinkedIn


Jef Lippiatt

Owner at Startup Chucktown

I focus on business strategy, diversification and divergent thinking. I enjoy helping others see the hidden opportunities in front of them.


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