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Divergence and Convergence

 

Explanations > Decisions > Divergence and Convergence

Divergence | Convergence | Conflict | Creating focus | So what?

 

When we are exploring and making decisions, we use two generic processes: divergence and convergence, that have quite different thinking methods.

Divergence

When you need to explore and find new things, you use Divergent approaches. This is a process of looking for options, new ideas and so on.

Some people prefer diverging, as it means the potential of a wrong decision is never reached. These people often have a preference for perceiving.

Being open

An important first step of divergent thinking is to be open. As a cognitive state, in involves temporarily suspending judgment and deliberately opening yourself up to new thoughts and ideas.

If you are seeking to change someone else's mind, then opening them up to the thought of new thoughts is often an important first step and may need a little practice before moving onto the main topic.

Creativity

Creative generation of ideas is a classic divergent activity, although it is not the only one. In creative sessions, ideas are generated without judgment or thought about which works best - those are put off for later sessions.

Convergence

Convergence is the opposite of divergence. When you are thinking convergently, you are seeking a conclusion, an answer, and closure on the topic in question.

People who rapidly seek convergence often have a preference for the structure of judging.

The point of decision

As convergence completes, closure is achieved and the decision is made. For many people this is a point of great satisfaction. For others, it includes the worry that you might have got it wrong.

Conflict

Conflict can happen in groups when one person is diverging and another is converging. The result is that they are going in different directions and a train wreck is on the cards.

A good idea in groups is to deliberately avoid going in both directions at once. Deliberately say 'Right, we are now converging, Ok?' It is also useful when persuading another person to guide them over the bump from divergence into convergence.

Creating focus

Using a repeated sequence of divergence and convergence is a great way of maintaining focus in many situations.

You start with divergence, explore only as far as you have the time for and can handle the complexity it creates. You then pull everything together to converge on a decision that takes you forward a step. At the next point, you now repeat the whole process.

Problem-solving focus

It is easy when problem-solving to get lost in the detail. A sequence of divergence and convergence helps a lot. Here's how it can happen:

  • Divergence: What are all the problems we could work on?

  • Convergence: This is the best.

  • Divergence: What are all the contributors of the problem?

  • Convergence: This one is the most significant.

  • Divergence: What are all the possible ways of fixing it?

  • Convergence: This one is the cheapest.

  • and so on...

So What

Manage the divergence and convergence when changing minds to the best effect. Diverge to help them find what is wrong and how it can be fixed, but do not allow endless divergence. Guide convergence towards the solution you want (or even a better one, if you can find it with them).

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