Divergent Thinking

Earlier this month I had the distinct pleasure of co-hosting the Innovations in Training Conference in Chicago.  Many thanks to the fabulous team at Training Mag, and especially to Steve Dahlberg who kept calm amidst the frenzy of a multi-location feast for the creative mind (and made time for some wine and laughter in the late evenings).

This notion of divergent thinking needs a bit more sunlight in the halls of learning designers, as we seek to continuously improve our work for our particular audiences – seeking new ways to engage, inspire and catalyze action connected to learning topics and agendas.

The feeling of being stuck in a rut is one that I’ve heard expressed from a number of clients over the years.  The pressures of time, money and volume of incoming requests for learning content modules, updates to learning management systems, and coordination of workshops and seminars leaves so little time (often) for pausing and going sideways.

Going sideways.  That’s a good way to think of it (and not like my experiences in a race car…).

Erika Marthins provided a great example of this for us, right out of the gate.  Her work as an interaction designer pushed all of us to think widely and wildly about the possible – what if we could hear food?  What if we could see messages through lollipops?  What if?

As leaders of learning functions and learning design efforts, I believe that we need to regularly make time to ask “What if?” questions – and to gain access to thinkers and creators that run in very different waters from our own.

The rest of the conference agenda included visits to the Northwestern University Medical Center Simulation lab (where some lucky participants were able to catch a sim baby being born!), Begyle Brewing (for tours of the process, and a hands-on experience with noted cicerone Randy Mosher), an IDEO-led exercise in understanding machine learning, four different kinds of virtual reality immersions, and story-based simulation design by Socratic Arts, among other experiences.

We converged at the end of the 2 days with guidance from experts Mindy Faber and Margaret Conway of the Convergence Design Lab, to help all of the attendees synthesize learning and the ideas into some practical applications and paths for exploration.  Yes, divergent thinking is great; AND it needs to be connected to a time for reflection and synthesis.

What fun 🙂