In this era, we need a new way of thinking to successfully navigate the myriads of problems that confront us as an Individual, Organization or a nation,

Last week, I appeared on a popular program (sunrise daily) on the Nigeria Television station, Channel Television. The subject of discourse is to find creative solution to the national  security challenges in Nigeria. After the program, I was inundated with series of calls and messages. While most of the callers lent their voices in support of my perspectives, there were a few others that wanted more light shed on how we could solve the problem using a human-centered approach.

I therefore wish to establish that the current national security challenges falls under what we called complex problems, they are problems difficult to define and tackle except we adopt a creative approach that challenges our biases, belief and individual interest.  National insecurity is a wicked problem that is almost impossible to solve in an atmosphere of poor tolerance for divergent views. You cannot solve wicked problems if they are poorly defined and if your style is more of seeing to be doing something rather than actually doing something and doing  the right thing.

Sensitive organisational or national problems need a creative problem solving methodology that embraces all views and labels no idea ‘stupid’. Adopting a divergent and convergent thinking method of a human-centered design approach may be the best framework to tackle this seemingly intractable problem.  This approach challenges our rigid way of thinking. A disposition whereby every critical views are naturally tagged to be anti-establishment makes it difficult to find solution to the problem. To solve complex national and organizational problem, Leaders must transform their mindset and abandoned their scarcity mentality that makes them view divergent views with suspicions. This type of thinking stifles innovation,  unfortunately those who are at the receiving end remains the people. How can we employ divergent and convergent thinking to solve national or organizational problem such as insecurity or poor performance? This piece aim at giving a bit of explanation of how the approach works and how it could benefit adopters.

To stay creative and remain open to new ideas as a leader, divergent thinking must be embraced. It’s another arrow in your quiver on the way to becoming the best leader possible, as there are great benefits to leaders who adopt a divergent way of thinking.

How does Divergent Thinking Work

Divergent thinking help leaders to horn their leadership skills and scale up their creative capability through tolerance for other views. It is about been tolerant to all possibilities. Divergent thinking is a good brainstorming tool, it is useful in an atmosphere that encourage, open, free-flow and spontaneous ideas. It is an effective tool, I like to use on a Design Thinking project, it enables us to work with small group of multidisciplinary teams to discover and define the problem and generate possible solutions which often times comes from lots of fresh and new ideas within a short timeframe. The beauty of this approach is that we get participants to suspend all judgments because most times the best idea may initially appear ridiculous. Participants are nudged to do away with biases, to go for quantity of ideas, not quality. Having done this, we also challenge each member of the team to spontaneously build on each other’s ideas, stretch the boundaries of the imagination, come up with wild even crazy, audacious ideas.

If this process is poorly followed the best idea may be cowed and owner of such ideas suppressed hence the best idea get unmentioned and undeveloped because the atmosphere does not encourage free speech. If Nigeria is to tackle most of her problems especially the problem of insecurity which was undoubtedly propelled by unemployment, poverty, high level of illiteracy, corruptions and injustice then a strong framework that encourage divergent thinking at all levels a must be adopted.

Developed nations and flourishing organization thrives on ideas because they have developed a culture that embrace divergent thinking, a thinking that allow free flow of ideas and a practice that ensure that the team collectively pick the best ideas.

Convergent Thinking

Having generated lots of ideas, it is now time to move through the process that carefully narrow those ideas so that the best ideas may emerged. The convergent thinking phase can be liken to a fisherman approach in separating his catch. With the catch in the net, he carefully separate then in order of value, remember that there is hardly any catch that is not useful to the fisherman. Convergent thinking enables you to narrow down a large number of ideas through the process of analyzing, judging, eliminating and selecting. It enables teams to evaluate without bias the suitability of each idea, separating them into the low-hanging fruit, barely feasible, and the dream concept. Convergent thinking help us to gain clarity, examine barriers, draw conclusions, determine the bottom-line, and select the best ideas. Can this process be adopted in tackling the insecurity problem in Nigeria, the answer is yes, if done with sincerity.

The current government must demonstrate it sincerity to want the problem resolved, the problem of insecurity will be a thing of the past if the underlying problem of exclusion, discrimination, poverty, unemployment, injustice and corruption can be tackled. To tackle this problem, the citizens must be at the centered of all solution. The process must be owned by the people, the idea of decision-by-fiat is archaic and ineffective. The leadership practices of exclusion and suppression is a major fuel for agitation, violent, conflict and our current fragile state. Until the users are placed at the Center of the solution and until leaders lead with empathy, any efforts towards solving complex problem will be an unfortunate waste of resources.

Care to apply this process in your organization?

Let’s talk


Olukunle A. Iyanda PhD, FCA, SNFLI.

Founder/CEO, BROOT Consulting Nigeria Limited.

Human-Centric Design Led Innovation Consultant.