Convergent Thinking by Consensus Skills

Check your assumptions at the innovation door.

Convergent Thinking by Consensus Skills


Improving Convergent Thinking

No matter which step in an innovation or brainstorming process, a team must demonstrate the following useful converging skills to ensure a high quality innovative result. 

  • View differences in perceptions as constructive
  • Listen carefully to what others say about an option
  • Explain exactly what the words within an option mean to you.
  • Build on points of agreement. Evolve words that bridge small differences
  • Give unusual options a good hearing.
  • Focus on good selections not protecting turf
  • Work toward full group converging
  • Say what you think.
  • Don’t let higher status or more vocal people sway the group.
Consensus Is Vital

Consensus is vital when it comes to evaluation in a team.  Without it, implementation is in jeopardy because there will be a drop in commitment.   Some members will begin to feel like outsiders.  Achieving consensus is a learnable skill.   For example, one of the skills is understanding that differences in perception is a good thing, not a bad thing.  If five different people have expressed five different facts about the same issue (some even apparently conflicting), this is not an obstacle to slow us down, but an opportunity to get smarter. Let’s clarify what we know and what we don’t know and move on. 

Small Differences In Thinking Are Okay

Don’t worry about small differences, just build on the big things you agree on. Evolve some words that satisfy everyone.  Say “by the end of the week,” instead of arguing over “which is better, Thursday or Friday.”  

Listen Carefully

Listening carefully to other people not only builds clarity and understanding but also builds trust. Remember, when convergent thinking, we are here to solve a problem, not to debate.  It’s important that all members of a team feel heard, no matter what the idea. As sometimes the most off the wall ideas can lead to innovation. 

Converge On Simple

Building a deeper understanding underpinning what people are trying to  say also requires the ability to use simple language.  You never really know what the words mean unless they’re really simple.  Try to encourage simple language in a convergent thinking process.

Embrace The Unusual

It is also important to not shy away from unusual options. Try to avoid playing it safe.  Someone needs to step up and say,  “Why aren’t we considering this option over here?  Let’s talk about it to see if we might take the riskiness out.”  Good teams are also able get beyond protecting their own personal interests and work for the overall organization’s benefit. 

Converge Means Together

Good teams work at getting everyone involved and saying what’s on their mind. Unfortunately, some people will shrink into the woodwork when it’s time to start choosing.  What if there’s seven people in the room and you’ve got something to say, but the other people are going in a very different direction?  What you must avoid thinking is, “Well, there’s something obviously wrong with me, I’ll go along with them and not  say anything.”  You might as well not be on the team because you may be the only one with an insight that is a game changer.   Do not contribute to what is known as  “groupthink.”   The team must also work hard at not letting higher status people swing the group. If you happen to be the boss, your special skill is not to act like one. You must be extra good at being one of the team.

Converging Could Mean Back To The Drawing Board

Sometimes this evaluation process does not even lead directly to the implementation phase.  Instead, it often points you in new directions.  For example, the entrepreneur might suddenly decide to try modifying a product or service that they like but that falls short against a particular criterion important to the group. 

This spontaneous surge of idea building can lead to a much different and better business opportunity.

Overall, when innovating, the general rule of thumb is to work as a team.  Some kernels of thought from less vocal members may allow more vocal members to generate better focus.  What’s important to one member of a team, may not be as important to another member of the team.  However, the fact is you are converging on a single idea and often the power of convergent thinking as a group outweighs the influence of a single member so its important to bring the entire weight of the team to the table to converge on the strongest ideas.

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