Every successful project strikes a good balance between divergence and convergence. Yes – this applies to every single project.
Divergence is about exploring new ideas and fresh perspectives through creativity and lateral thinking. The team needs to examine enough possible approaches before selecting their best approach.
Convergence is about translating thought into action and plans into outcomes. It involves heads-down work on pushing the project towards the finish line. A converging team sticks to the selected approach, meets deadlines and ships the project.
Most teams fail to strike a good balance between convergence and divergence.
The first challenge comes with different team members operating differently. Some team members are too divergent with their thinking, while others are too convergent. Good team work synergizes the two, whereas in dysfunctional teams, they cancel each other out.
The second challenge is that the right mix depends upon the project stage. At the start of a project, more diverging thinking is needed, and the project approaches the end, it needs to converge more. Flipping this order around is a recipe for disaster.
The third challenge is to switch seamlessly between convergence and divergence depending on the situation. During a brainstorming session, a team needs to channel divergent thinking. But as the session draws to an end, it needs to converge on the next steps. Whenever the project threatens to converge on an unforeseen disaster, the team needs to immediately diverge and course correct.
The beauty of this principle is the broadness of its applicability. Does your project team have the right mix?