Designing outside the lines. Why every product design team needs… | by Suchithra Sathiyamurthy | Dec, 2023


Your convergent mind is a powerful tool. It plants the critical pauses and arguments that shape ideas into solutions.

“This is a good idea, but…..” or “This is better than the other considering…”.

Yet, it frequently operates in unison with divergent thinking, restraining creativity. Designers navigate the product delivery wheel every day, sprinting from idea to execution. In this hyper-focused trajectory, the reluctance to explore the unknown, driven by fear of risks, limits the space for radical creativity.

And innovators and dreamers often can’t thrive in typical organizations. Their constant “what ifs” and “why does it have to be this ways” can be irritating for organizations trying to lock in an execution plan and meet quarterly targets. As a result, their creative spirit is slowly bent over time to serve the status quo, or they leave, maybe branded as troublemakers .
Astro Teller, Co-founder @Google X

Alan Dix defines two kinds of creativity: ant-like and flea-like creativity. The former is often what we use in our day-to-day design problems — they are calculative, small, slow and safe and “leverages convergent thinking to evolve your idea incrementally in a number of versions”. The latter, flea-like creativity, is bolder and far-reaching — “and hence means you’ll go down the wrong avenues searching for optimal solutions”; risky yet can bring radical and brilliant solutions.

A top view of a dotted line trailing behind a moving ant, denoting ant-like creativity (left) and a dotted line trailing behind a jumping flea, denoting flea-like creativity (right).
© Teo Yu Siang and Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

So, what if you liberated your divergent mind, allowing creativity to flow freely, momentarily silencing the critical voice? Providing the time and space for this unfettered creativity is a boon for designers, teams, and the entire company.

#1 — Designers as provocateurs


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