Divergent Thinking and GenAI: The Secret to Successful Team Collaboration


November 7, 2023

With all the buzz around large language models, it’s easy to get swept up in the idea that generative AI (GenAI) can take content creation off your hands. It’s a tantalizing thought: tirelessly generating fresh ideas and content. But with all the excitement, it seems like there’s a key element everyone is overlooking: the human touch.

GenAI is a powerful tool, but without applying divergent thinking, it’s just like throwing another average employee into the workspace. Divergent thinking, the process of coming up with creative ideas by widely exploring all possibilities, transforms GenAI from a simple tool into an innovative one. 

In this post, you’ll learn about the powerful combination of divergent thinking and GenAI, and the role it plays in boosting team collaboration. You’ll discover how, with the right human touch, GenAI can live up to the hype and help out in your quest for fresh ideas.

Quick Takeaways

  • Divergent thinking allows for free brainstorming, encourages the sharing of diverse opinions, and leads to unique ideas. 
  • GenAI has the potential to boost creativity and productivity in almost every industry. 
  • By combining divergent thinking and GenAI, you can guide the technology to create unique ideas and content, leading to innovative problem-solving.  
  • Divergent thinking and GenAI can enhance team collaboration through automating routine tasks, creating a culture of innovation, problem-solving, and enhancing training and development.

Understanding divergent thinking

If you’ve ever wandered off into thought, daydreaming about all the possibilities, then you’ve practiced divergent thinking. Instead of focusing on a single, linear path, divergent thinking explores all possibilities. This way, you can see the problem from different angles and nurture your creativity.

Your traditional thought process usually focuses on convergent thinking, which is about finding the single ‘right’ answer to a problem. Divergent thinkers explore every possibility, even those that might seem risky or even downright wacky. This approach:

graphic shows the difference between divergent thinking and convergent thinking

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Fields where innovation is key, including technology, design, and entrepreneurship, highly value divergent thinking.

The rise of GenAI

GenAI is a field of artificial intelligence that focuses on creating new content. At the heart of it is a machine learning model that’s called “generative”. This version learns from tons of data, then uses the information to create something new.

Since GenAI has made its way into mainstream uses, there’s no question that it’s going to impact the way people create new content. The latest GenAI tools already have the power to automate work that takes up 60-70% of employees’ time.

graph shows the potential impact of GenAI on businesses

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GenAI can boost creativity and productivity in almost every industry, including:

  • Technology. GenAI can generate code, speeding up the software development process.
  • Entertainment. Artists use GenAI to create new music or artwork, pushing the boundaries of what’s creatively possible.
  • Business. GenAI can generate reports or marketing content, freeing up time for you to focus on other tasks.

That being said, there’s no reason to panic. There’s a number of businesses that have tapped into GenAI to give their employees more ways to get better work done faster, rather than just chipping away at their responsibilities.

These businesses tap into GenAI to automate mundane tasks, boost creativity, and interact with customers. Think of it as having an extra team member that never sleeps and is always ready to help out with new ideas.

How divergent thinking and GenAI work together

When you combine divergent thinking with GenAI, you can unlock new levels of innovation and guide the technology to create unique ideas and content.

Using GenAI isn’t a one-and-done deal. You can’t just ask it for a groundbreaking idea and expect its response to solve your problem. The key is to prompt GenAI and revise its outputs using your divergent thinking skills:

  • Ask the right questions
  • Explore different angles
  • Challenge the status quo

This way, you’re not just offloading all the work to a machine. Instead, you’re using divergent thinking and GenAI to innovate, interpret, refine, and apply the content generated.

The role of divergent thinking and GenAI in team collaboration

A recent research study by McKinsey shows that GenAI is likely to have the biggest impact on how teams make decisions and collaborate. 

bar graph shows the impact of GenAI on decision-making and collaboration, emphasizing the importance of combining divergent thinking with GenAI 

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This makes the combination of divergent thinking and GenAI key to taking your team’s collaboration to new heights through creative problem-solving.

Here are some specific strategies to help you and your team apply divergent thinking to GenAI tools:

  • Boost Brainstorming Sessions. Use divergent thinking to encourage your team to explore every idea during brainstorming sessions. Then, bring in GenAI to build on them, sparking conversations and leading to more revolutionary results.
  • Automate Routine Tasks. Let’s face it, these are the soul-sucking things that everyone wants to be rid of. Let GenAI handle these routine tasks, like generating reports or drafting emails. This frees up time for you and your team to apply divergent thinking to more complex challenges that could use some extra creativity .
  • Foster a Culture of Innovation. By weaving divergent thinking and GenAI into your team dynamics, you can create a culture of innovation. Encourage your team to use GenAI to explore new perspectives and insights, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.
  • Enhance Training and Development. Apply divergent thinking to create cutting-edge training materials and scenarios. Then, use GenAI to personalize these materials or simulate scenarios for team role-plays. This can enhance your team’s skills and prepare them for various business situations. 

Take advantage of divergent thinking and GenAI today

Divergent thinking and GenAI can supercharge the way you and your team operate. By applying divergent thinking to GenAI, you’re not just automating tasks. You’re guiding the technology to create unique ideas and content and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.

Just remember, taking advantage of divergent thinking and GenAI isn’t just about improving productivity—it’s about creating a culture of creativity and innovation.Are you ready to boost team collaboration with divergent thinking and GenAI? As the world’s leading Innovation Architect, I can help. Read more on my blog page now, or email me today to learn how to nurture creative thinking.

About Carla

Carla Johnson Innovation Creativity Speaker Author

Carla Johnson helps leaders who are often paralyzed by traditional thinking. They suffer from slow growth, an eroding competitive advantage, low employee engagement, and depleted investor confidence. Their teams lack purpose and progress and constantly battle a resistance to change and new ideas.

As the world’s leading innovation architect, Carla’s spent 20 years helping leaders shatter limits and discover undiscovered possibilities. Through years of research, she’s developed a simple, scalable 5-step process that teaches people how to consistently produce inspired ideas that lead to uncommon outcomes.