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How to Crack Your Conventional Thinking

Do you struggle to formulate and articulate valuable, unique insights? Are societal conventions controlling what you share with the world? How do you break free from the cycle of social conformity and emerge as an independent thinker?

Creativity comes from engaging in divergent thinking, a process of exploring many possible solutions, and making disparate connections, which means putting together seemingly unrelated puzzle pieces. Divergent thinking is correlated with curiosity, persistence, risk tolerance, and nonconformist tendencies. If you would like to embody more of these characteristics and add valuable, creative insights to the world, then you should continue reading. Otherwise, please stop now, and remain within the comfortable confines of your conventional thinking.

Here are the tools to crack conventional-thinking patterns:

  1. Practice radical perspective taking: Suppose you are a police commissioner, tasked with curbing inner-city violence. Where do you start? Although it may be tempting to bolster security measures by putting more officers on the beat and implementing higher arrest quotas, this may not be the best way to reach the root of the problem. In fact, bolstering security measures would likely serve as a mere band-aid solution, neglecting to actually heal the wound beneath. If you want to eradicate the violence at its roots, you need to understand the driving factors behind it. This involves getting inside the heads of the people committing crimes and analyzing the psychological, as well as sociological, factors, that influence them.

    Be warned. Practicing radical perspective taking is a risky, at the very least uncomfortable, endeavor. It exposes you to the darker side of society and the human psyche, blurring black and white lines between good and evil. However, if you can come out the other side, your arsenal of solutions expands significantly.

  2. Get out on the ground: What is the best way to identify the root causes of problems? Lived experience. Armchair intellectuals and investors can dream up solutions all day, but the people with real knowledge of problems have boots on the ground. Entrepreneurs, field researchers, and street-level bureaucrats interact intimately with populations experiencing problems, so they are best-equipped to envision and implement solutions.

    The shortfall of central planning is that interpreting data and anecdotes can only tell so much of a story. When people are on the ground, they have the advantage of being able to observe how populations behave, rather than relying on hearsay. This provides a unique advantage in being able to identify problems and implement solutions rooted in real-world experience and observable feedback, instead of theory.

  3. Bounce between social circles: Like-minded individuals have a tendency to group together. Unfortunately, this can be detrimental to thinking divergently, making disparate connections, and practicing radical perspective taking. In order to expand your horizons and expose yourself to differing viewpoints, you must bounce between social circles.

    Although it may seem tricky at first, you can manage to find common ground with anyone. We are all human after all. Once you can see past surface-level differences and discover commonalities, perspective taking becomes a breeze, and you will become more comfortable getting out on the ground. Additionally, you will begin to bridge gaps between seemingly disparate groups and viewpoints.

  4. Make mind maps: As you practice the preceding strategies, you will need to make sense of your thoughts. Mind maps are one of the best ways to turn stimuli into divergent-thinking solutions.

    In order to make a mind map, simply start by writing a single theme or question on a piece of paper. Draw a circle around your central theme. As you come up with sub-themes or answers, place them in circles around the central theme, then draw lines connecting related themes, questions, and answers. This exercise will enable you to begin creating disparate connections and identifying linkages between ideas.

    Here is a mind map of this article:

Once you have mapped out your thoughts, you will possess a clearer understanding of problems, solutions, and connecting factors. Now, go apply your insights, impress your friends with your creativity, and produce some positive change in the world!

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