Many innovation models are built on the Osborn-Parnes model of creative problem solving, which uses a system of divergence and convergence. However, it’s not a simple two-step process. There should be divergence and convergence at every stage of the front end of the innovation process: some convergence during the diverging stage—and some divergence in the converging stage. Divergence is the creative chaos, helping to clarify which of the many possible options makes the most sense strategically. Convergence moves us forward and builds momentum.
Great ideation sessions feel like chaos when they tackle every possible direction—but it’s the right kind of chaos. The freedom to explore, before judging, is critical to coming up with innovative ideas. (During the divergence process there is a bit of convergence, but it’s not about judging the ideas. It’s about deciding which opportunity areas to spend time and energy on—so it’s ok.) When evaluation is left until later, it allows you to fully explore all avenues and seeds of opportunity, instead of throwing them out based only on face value. Only after thoroughly exploring the opportunities is it time to move on to convergence.
To some people, convergence feels like an end—but in reality, it’s where we start to align on direction and build momentum. It’s where the power of the individual meets the power of the group. So while individuals get a chance to put forth key possibilities they think best meet the objective, once the lead possibilities are decided upon, it’s the power of the group that truly helps bring them to life. (At this point of the convergence process, a little bit of divergence happens because the team’s still building out the idea—and that’s ok.) Not only do you get a lot of great minds working to improve upon and develop the ideas further—you also get buy-in while starting to build excitement and momentum going forward.
When done as a team, piecing together the puzzle into a collection of well thought-out opportunities is hard—but energizing—work. The energy of knowing everyone was a part of creating the ideas, and living through the chaos together, helps to build momentum. As you pursue the ideas together—and work toward making them a reality—the momentum only continues.
Beth Storz is President and Innovation Process Facilitator at Ideas To Go. She co-authored the book, "Outsmart Your Instincts: How the Behavioral Innovation™ Approach Drives Your Company Forward." Beth has been a guest on many innovation podcasts and her work has been featured in media outlets such as HuffPost and Fortune. Beth holds a BS in Business Management from Cornell University and a MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business, and has worked in brand management at some of the premier consumer packaged goods companies—including Unilever, Kraft and Nabisco. Since joining Ideas To Go, Beth has established herself as a leader in the Innovation landscape and designed and facilitated projects for hundreds of companies—from CPG to financial services to pharmaceuticals.