Tactic: Diverge and Converge

This post is by Giff Constable from giffconstable.com

You’re an inclusive leader. Maybe you’re an executive trying to find good ideas and give more people a voice. Maybe you’re a PM trying to foster the creative juices of your team. What’s your move? Do you get everyone in a room (virtual or real) for a brainstorm, break out the sticky notes (virtual or real), and let the conversation flow?

Hold those horses! If you just jump into a conversation, you risk several things happening: 1) the fast-ideas, heavy-talkers often dominate the conversation; 2) the first ideas are often not the best ideas; 3) you get an unhealthy dynamic called “group think”. I first learned about group think at university when we examined the terrible decision making under US President JFK that led to the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Group think is when the desire for consensus and group harmony overcomes critical thinking about ideas, leading to irrational decisions. There’s also a worse flavor where an intellectual bully makes it hard to dissent.

You can overcome group think by using what the design field calls diverge and converge. As those two words imply, first you allow people to think through an issue on their own, and then compare ideas in an attempt to find the optimal answer.

I use the diverge and converge technique for just about any situation where you want multiple perspectives into a decision. Need to align on resource allocation as an executive team? Diverge and converge. Need to design an experiment to prove (Read more...)