Successful innovation relies not only on skillful divergent thinking – the generation of fresh opportunities, possibilities, ideas, and options – but equally on skillful convergent thinking – the analysis, evaluation, selection and development of the best ones to put into action.
High quality convergent thinking requires special collaborative and open-minded behaviors to help teams avoid premature judgments. It’s imperative to listen carefully, engage in spontaneous, respectful discussion and reach real agreement during the convergent thinking process. Ultimately, the goal of innovation is to act, and to get something new and valuable accomplished. If teammates do not agree (or fully understand what they are agreeing on), buy-in is undermined, and the likelihood of successful implementation of a new solution is greatly reduced.
Here are some of these special behaviors:
Evaluate with an open mind
When evaluating, stay open-minded and receptive. Allow everyone equal time to share their views, explain the options they prefer, and what they consider most important and why. Listen carefully to their reasoning and ask for clarification if needed. Make your selections only when everyone is happy their views have received a good hearing. This ensures agreement, consensus and commitment is reached across the whole team.
Nothing is black and white. It’s perfectly possible to hold conflicting opinions – in fact it’s healthy to do so. Aim to view things from every side. Keep your thinking open by considering ideas for what they can offer, not for what they don’t. Try replacing a “we can’t because” approach with a “How might we?” assessment. Be willing to share half a thought, in the hope of inspiring new discussion.