In business, making stuff and getting things done requires collaboration and creativity. Not all ideas are good ideas and many great ideas are never brought to fruition. For an idea to be made real, it takes a creative, collaborative effort by a diverse team of people. It also takes two kinds of thinking as a part of the development process — divergent and convergent.
For an effective, creative process, there needs to be both uninhibited brainstorm thinking and critical thinking. Divergent thinking allows you to let loose and encourages wild ideas.Then in the convergent phase, you activate critical thinking to figure out if an idea is relevant, adds value and is worth pursuing any further.
This is how stuff gets made and things get done. Keith Harmeyer in The Power of Divergent and Convergent Thinking, points out the difference between these two thought processes:
The Benefits of Divergent Thinking
Divergent thinking allows a group to generate as many fresh, new ideas as possible in a short timeframe. During this process all judgment is suspended, the group is encouraged to go for quantity of ideas, not quality, spontaneously build on one another’s ideas, and push the boundaries of the imagination …even wild, crazy, audacious ideas are welcome. In fact, the motto for divergent thinking is, “Everything is possible!” All ideas are equally embraced and recorded. In divergent thinking there really is no such thing as a bad idea.The goal is to simply achieve the largest creative yield of ideas and new connections possible. Look at divergent thinking as “big picture,” unencumbered by any practical or logistical constrains, limitations, or judgments.
The Benefits of Convergent Thinking
If divergent thinking is casting the widest net possible to capture new ideas, then convergent thinking can be thought of as harvesting of the very best of catch. Just as a funnel decreases the scope of a substance, so that it fits through a narrow opening, convergent thinking narrows down a large number of ideas through the process of analyzing, judging, eliminating and selecting. Convergent thinking is ideally suited for thoroughly evaluating the merits of an idea, or seeing how well it holds up to scrutiny based on pre-established criteria. We use convergent thinking to gain clarity, consider practical constraints, draw conclusions, determine the bottom-line, and select the best ideas.
The trick to getting stuff made and things done is in balancing both modes of thinking and working with the right team. If both parts of the process are not considered equally, you risk either getting tied up with too many “blue-sky” ideas or focusing too much on the tactics to deliver on a poorly-conceived concept. A good team will keep these things in balance through collaboration, trust and leveraging their individual talents in targeting team goals.
When all of these components work together within the process, we get some cool stuff and things get done. When there’s imbalance, we usually end up with something less than what everyone expected — a product no one wants to buy or a service that nobody can use.
And that’s never a good idea.