I want to continue to share entrepreneurial exercises that I have been developing for my kids, this time about developing creativity. Creativity is essential to entrepreneurship because it allows entrepreneurs to create new ideas, solve problems innovatively, and differentiate their businesses from competitors.
You’re probably already familiar with divergent thinking. Divergent thinking is a cognitive process that involves generating a wide range of ideas or solutions to a problem or challenge. Divergent thinking is often associated with creativity. It consists in coming up with multiple and varied ideas rather than focusing on a single, preconceived solution. The creative process can be generalized to two phases: divergent thinking and convergent thinking. This is probably what most people think of when think hear “creative.” But there’s a second part, and this part is equally important.
Convergent thinking is a cognitive process that involves finding the most correct or appropriate solution to a problem or challenge. It is a logical and structured problem-solving approach using known information and existing strategies to arrive at a single, correct answer.
So creativity, in a sense, is just diverging on possible solutions or ideas, then converging on the correct one, however “correct” may be defined.
Interestingly, we can flex the parts of the brain involved in divergent and convergent thinking without generating ideas, then choosing the best one. We can do these through two different mindful practices. A common practice is focusing on a single stimulus and then guiding your thoughts back to that when they drift. This type of exercise flexes the same pathways as convergent thinking does. Another common mindfulness practice is a body scan, where you focus on the part of your body and then rotate through the different parts. Or a sounds and thoughts exercise, where you let random thoughts flow, simply noticing and acknowledging them or paying attention to your soundscape and noticing the different sounds you hear. These practices engage the same parts of your brain as divergent thinking.
That’s really cool. I had already been doing some “focus practice” with my kids each morning before our “bite-sized bible” study, so I modified it by adding a divergent practice before the convergent one. This mirrors the sequence in the creative process. We finish the practice in less than fifteen minutes, which makes it easy to get it done without disrupting the rest of the day.
Exercise #1 – Divergent Mindfulness
We have a few different themes to contextualize the exercise: Sounds, sights, thoughts, and “what you feel.” I start by setting the context, then remind them of the work we’re doing, e.g., “notice and catalog what you hear, don’t focus on one thing the entire time, and be prepared to share”. Then I start a timer. At the end of the timer, we share the different things we attended to and remark on our thoughts or struggles. For example, this morning, we did ‘sights’ for the first time. I commented that I hadn’t noticed the roof line on our goat shelter wasn’t straight and that when I was studying things outside, I couldn’t help but drift into thoughts about chores that needed to get done. We started this practice doing 2 minutes and have since worked up to 5 today. I’ll stick to 5 minutes for a while. That’s a long time for an 8 and 11-year-old.
Exercise #2 – Convergent Mindfulness
We’ve been using a metronome for this next exercise, as I found exercises that were “internal work” only hard to verify that my kids were doing. How I use a metronome to demonstrate the training is being done is quite simple. I use a free web app (https://metronomeonline.com) with a timer with beats. I have them focus on the beats and count them. At the end, we all reveal our counts to see how close we came to the actual number. We’ve been mixing it up, listening to ten beats to get a pace, then turning it silent and simply counting in our heads (this is pretty fun), changing the bpm from 60 to 80, etc. Like the previous exercise, I start by reminding them what the work is with instructions. For example, “We’re going to silently count the beats and then reveal our counts, and if you have thoughts, it’s okay; acknowledge them, then return to your count.” At the end of the exercise, we also discussed any thoughts we had. Talking about the “meta” thoughts has been fun, e.g., “I was thinking about how I was going to describe why I couldn’t keep count.” We’ve done these for well over a month now, and an exciting bonus is it’s become obvious when any of us get poor sleep. Our counts need to be corrected. This morning’s silent count was 6 minutes and 20 seconds. I thought I had ended the exercise at 5 minutes. Ooops, guess who didn’t get good sleep last night? Meanwhile, both my sons were within 8 beats.
If you have any questions or suggestions, let me know!