Successful innovation at any level in any field depends upon skillful performance in two critical mental abilities – divergent thinking and convergent thinking. The optimum ratio of the two thinking processes differs greatly across different occupations and organizational functions.
Let’s first define these abilities.
Divergent thinking means expanding your thoughts and developing options in many different directions: searching for new trends, problems, possibilities & opportunities for change, defining problems from different angles, looking for different facts and points of view and even seeking out options and alternatives when it seems that none exist. Divergence skill requires letting ideas come to light in the absence of criticism and instant over-analysis. Deferring judgment enables you to pursue directions you didn’t think possible.
Convergent thinking means narrowing the focus, carefully selecting the best options to take forward, and importantly always with an open mind.
When a group is charged with evaluating a wide array of options and possibilities, the ability to hold off premature judgment, to listen carefully, to clarify and respect what others are saying and to apply unbiased criteria, is of paramount importance. Removing misunderstandings, assumptions, hidden motives, or ego enables the group to zero in on the options that everyone believes are important and be committed to them. We call these “best bets”.
But what is the right ratio of divergent and convergent thinking in innovation?…