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Encouraging Divergent Thinking

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Student Entrepreneurial and Innovative Mindset

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.525.1 - 25.525.46



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Paper Authors


Daniel Raviv Florida Atlantic University

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Daniel Raviv is a professor of computer and electrical engineering and computer science at Florida Atlantic University. He also served as Assistant Provost for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. With more than 25 years of combined experience in the high-tech industry, government, and academia, Raviv developed fundamentally different approaches to “out-of-the-box” thinking and a breakthrough methodology known as “Eight Keys to Innovation.” He has been sharing his contributions with professionals in businesses, academia, and institutes nationally and internationally. Most recently, he was a visiting professor at the University of Maryland (at Mtech, Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute) and at Johns Hopkins University (at the Center for Leadership Education), where he researched and delivered processes for creative and innovative problem solving. For his unique contributions, he received the prestigious Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award, the Faculty Talon Award, the University Researcher of the Year AEA Abacus Award, and the President’s Leadership Award. Raviv has published in the areas of vision-based driverless cars, green innovation, and innovative thinking. He is a Co-holder of a Guinness World Record. Raviv received his Ph.D. degree from Case Western Reserve University in 1987 and M.Sc. and B.Sc. degrees from the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology in 1982 and 1980, respectively.

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Encouraging Divergent ThinkingAbstract An important aspect of innovative problem solving is ideation. Ideation renders diverseideas to emerge, a combination of which can be used to solve a given problem. It allows studentsto explore multiple solutions, and more importantly to realize that usually there is no “one correctanswer” to a given problem. This paper focuses on team-based, interpersonal, individual hands-on activities aimed atencouraging divergent thinking. The activities allow students to change their point of view, avoidunnecessary assumptions, think outrageously and unexpectedly, and improvise using limitedavailable resources. Students are encouraged to find multiple, imaginative, intuitive (and counterintuitive), as well as common sense solutions. The activities are designed to accommodate multiple teaching/learning scenarios, such asindividual setting where each and every student is challenged with a specific problem; teamsettings that promote group divergent thinking, discussions and competitions; and, collectively,where all students generate ideas for a given challenge. Some activities are designed to be self-paced; others have strict time constraints, leading to ideation under pressure. The instructions forthe activities are very clear and concise allowing participants to be relieved from unnecessaryconstraints or assumptions. Following each activity, a short discussion session is facilitated toreflect on the activity’s goals, challenges and results. Even though some of the activities may notbe new, they are still introduced with different twist and/or with a new set of instructions. This paper describes a collection of different activities and their purpose, as well asmultiple solutions as shared by participants, some of which are unexpected, explorative andunconventional. Benefits acquired by the students are identified. An example for an activity is: Make the following sentence complete and correct: “This sentence has _____ letters.” By not making unnecessary assumptions, and allowing imaginations to run wild, studentshave come up with more than 125 meaningfully different solutions! The activities have been embedded in undergraduate courses, e.g., “Creativityand Innovation,” that were taught at three different universities with participants fromdifferent majors/colleges. A goal of all the related courses is to enhance innovative andcreative thinking abilities of students resulting in skills that can be used in problemsolving. The author shares these activities to allow people who teach creative andinnovative thinking to have “ready to use” class material, avoiding re-inventing andsearching for new activities. This paper lists the “better” activities that “survived”many years of experimentation with continuous improvements.

Raviv, D. (2012, June), Encouraging Divergent Thinking Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21283

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