Divergent thinking, convergent thinking, the right way of thinking for innovation. But what is the right ratio?

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

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?
What’s the right amount of time to devote to each? We have found that higher ratios are typical in work classified as more problem finding in nature, such as researchers and academics or professors. More of their time is devoted to long range work with accomplishments occurring longer time frames, perhaps in years, developing new theories and questions for exploration.

Lower ratios are found in work classified as more solution implementation in nature, such as manufacturing production, sales, and logistics. More of their time is devoted to short term achievements: They know by the end of the day or week how successful they were in meeting a goal or installing a new procedure.

Moderate ratios are found in work classified as more problem solving in nature, such as marketing, advertising agency and nonprofit organization administration. Perhaps more of their time is devoted to launching and testing new programs and initiatives whose success may be measured in say, months or semesters.

In summation, successful innovation is dependent on quality divergent thinking balanced with quality convergent thinking at every step of the innovation process with judgment managed consistently throughout.

The exact nature of the balance depends on the field of work

For more specific details, field research identifying optimum divergent
/convergent ratios for different jobs in different industries can be found in the Creativity Research Journal, Vol 8, (1), pp 63 – 75):DOWNLOAD HERE Optimal ideation-evaluation ratios.

Basadur Launches Simplexity Innovative Thinking Skills Certification Webinar

Innovative thinking and the ability to collaborate with others are among the top non- technical abilities reported as vital for 21st-century careers and for organizational competitiveness.  Innovative thinking is based on four fundamental skills and like all skills, they can be learned and developed to a very high level. 

The application of these skills can significantly contribute to innovation and creativity for any organization.

With the Simplexity Innovation Thinking Skills Certification, these essential thinking skills will become internalized, leading to the successful engagement of Simplexity’s innovation process and resulting in the development of good solutions for an organization’s thorniest problems.

The webinar presents a safe learning experience where you will gain a thorough understanding of the Simplexity Innovation Thinking Skills  with supporting scientific research.  The webinar is experiential and all registrants benefit from consistent engagement in the program.  Upon completion, you will be certified to apply the skills and engage others in the Simplexity Innovation Thinking Skills.

No prerequisite is required to attend. Contact Us To Learn More


Our Colleague, Garry Gelade

Dear Friends & Colleagues,

One of the very best things about what we do at Basadur Applied Innovation is that we get to meet and collaborate with special people, people who in their own way make the world a much better place. Garry Gelade, our dear friend, colleague and mentor, who passed away on July 5th, 2020, is one of the best examples of this fact. Beyond our sadness over his passing, it has been difficult to write this because of the myriad different ways in which Garry was so special. 

He was a truly unique individual whose varied accomplishments and interests made him more fascinating as relationships deepened and the longer you knew him and the more you found out about him. This may be the best succinct description of him: “An amazing, positive and interesting person.” 

He was a devout Buddhist who believed that it is important to “understand the nature of the world, otherwise people will be wanting and expecting things that are just not in accordance with the way things are, and they won’t be able to understand why.” It’s fair to say that this belief guided his work as a master statistician, in that he wanted his work be useful to people trying t make an impact. He also had a very curious nature and applied his expertise in whatever endeavors appealed to him, so his impact was made in some very different fields.

Early in his career in psychology, Garry co-authored with Anne Treisman foundational research on human perception that continues to influence the field of cognitive psychology. Later, in 2010, Garry argued persuasively that the Journal of Occupational Organizational Psychology become more relevant to practitioners by focusing more on research questions of interest to practitioners and to increase the analysis of practical implications in the discussion section.

Beyond the field of psychology, Garry played a pioneering, seminal role in sports analytics for Chelsea Football Club, and later consulted with Paris St. Germaine and Real Madrid football clubs, and was considered by many to be the elder statesman of football analytics. In each of these examples Garry’s goal was to make clear through data the way things actually are so that those involved could make a real positive impact.

We like to think that this, the desire to make a positive impact, is why Garry reached out to us in 1994 and remained a colleague, collaborator, mentor and friend until the very end: That he believed that our training and facilitation truly makes a positive impact on the creativity and innovativeness of the people and organizations we work with, and that the data bears this out.

As a colleague and collaborator, Garry contributed greatly to Basadur Applied Creativity’s development and scientific foundation, and to our ability to explain the underpinnings of what we do and how it works to make individuals and teams more creative and innovative.

As a friend and mentor, the memories and stories we have of Garry and how much he meant to us are too many to mention (despite their typically being an ocean between us!). We spent many days writing and collaborating on research in his flat in St. John’s Wood, right near Abbey Road in London (we even ran into Paul McCartney once, in a restaurant one Sunday morning pushing a baby carriage!), or in London, Birmingham or Wolverhampton or Florida at training workshops, or even in Oklahoma City presenting a paper on the predictive validity of the Profile at the Southwestern Academy of Management (Garry figured out how to analyze all of the data we collected from the “Like to do/Don’t Like to Do” Profile quadrant exercises in our workshops). There isn’t a single instance during these times that was not fun, no matter what we were doing.

We had a chance to talk to him in his last days. He made it easier for us being a devout Buddhist and his belief of “living in the present” was always at the forefront. He will be greatly missed and with heavy hearts we bid him farewell.

Please see below the login details of the webcast of his funeral.

Also attached is his obituary. Min & Tim Basadur

Managing for Diversity and Inclusion in our Climate of Change

This post is brought to you by our partners at Leadershipdialogues.com and we are proud to share.

The recent protests in the streets show us that people really want to be heard and included in how we run things.  These desires can’t help but spill over into organizational life. Leaders will now need to hear the voices of those who before now have not felt empowered to speak.

So what can effective leaders do?

Creating awareness that minority employees feel marginalized is an important first step.  In the past, these employees have experienced some voices being listened to more than others. They have also experienced being excluded from decisions which often seem to be made by a select group of people who are not very diverse.

But creating awareness is not sufficient according to research by the  Neuroleadership Institute on Diversity and Inclusion. If training focuses only on what people should or should not say to be culturally sensitive or politically correct, this can backfire.  People may feel threatened and worried that they may say the wrong thing, retreat, and become disengaged,  

A different approach is to create diverse and inclusive teams who are given important meaningful problems to solve with common objectives with their different perspectives.   Research has found that teams that lack diversity are more comfortable working together but teams of diverse members perform better, despite having a less comfortable experience. But research also has proven that they need a common process to guide their problem solving as a unit. This is because each individual has their own unique process of tackling a problem, without understanding their teammates’ approaches. They have to synchronize their approaches using the process to collaborate effectively and begin creating a culture of diversity and inclusion

For the last 40 years, Basadur Applied Innovation has successfully brought its Simplexity Thinking methodology to create diverse experiences, perspectives, and cognitive styles to solve organizations’ most pressing problems.  A simple example is their Fact-Finding process in which all team members offer their answers to these six questions.  All answers are accepted without judgment and evaluation is applied afterwards.

1. What do you know, or think you know about this fuzzy situation?

2. What don’t you know, but you’d like to know?

3. Why is this a problem for you? Why can’t you make it go away?

4. What have you thought of or already tried?

5. If this problem were to be resolved, what would you have that you don’t

have now?

6. What might you be assuming that you don’t have to assume?

Team members almost always report that these questions open up new ways of looking at the problem they are trying to solve and important perspectives they hadn’t considered. In essence, they are also dispelling some biases they may have had based on limited experience.

After all the answers are exhausted, collaborative evaluation begins. The team proceeds through a “telescoping” process in which each member chooses the few answers seen as most important.  Then each member gives voice to why they made those choices. Finally, the group works together to select the critical few answers to explore further. In telescoping, everyone shares the options they most prefer and explains why. Everyone actively listens with an open mind and asks for clarification as needed. Often people say things like “Oh, now I understand what you meant and why you picked it!”. This leads to brand new options emerging even while evaluation is underway. Another good thing about telescoping is that everyone believes their views received a good hearing. This creates consensus and commitment.

Simply using this process in meetings can lead to the possibility of more innovative solutions and a sense of arriving at them together.

How might you try this out with your own teams and see what can happen?

Innovating in a global crisis: what do you do when you don’t know what to do next?

The tremendous impact of the coronavirus is altering the world for all of us in many ways.   No one, including organizational leaders, knows what to do next, where this is going or when it will end.  It could be six months or longer before we get back to anything normal and this new normal is expected to include pocket resurgences of coronavirus around the world. The situation we are in might be closer to World War II in magnitude than anything we have had to deal with since. I have worked in the trenches for more than 50 years and the current state of our world has me reflecting on other crises we have faced.  We will all get through the next months and years together and out of it will come a new normal. We will innovate. We always do.

The coronavirus situation has me thinking about uncertain times that followed other terrible global events. For what it’s worth, I want to share a story about how the leader of a client organization of ours responded innovatively after the horrific  events of September 11, 2001 by starting with the problem, “I don’t know what to do next.”

As CEO and Board Chairman of a global aerospace and airplane engineering company, he was seeing a huge threat to the viability of his company in the aftermath of 9/11. While the company had built itself a great reputation in the aerospace and aircraft field, with 28 business units making parts and systems for a variety of customers, the terrorist attack caused demand for flights to drop, resulted in a number of airlines declaring bankruptcy and no one knew what the impact would be on future aircraft sales. The company’s stock lost more than 80 per cent of its value overnight.  Normal strategies and practices could no longer be counted upon to ensure the survival and future viability of the company.  

Rather than “hunker down” into a defensive shell, the company made a deliberate decision to use innovation to rebuild. Here’s how. The leader quickly called the top seven senior executives to a meeting and told them, “I don’t know what to do next.” His admission of this problem triggered the team to turn to its innovation training. Relying on a proven innovation process, the team launched into fact finding, then challenge finding, then challenge mapping to develop a strategic plan for moving forward. They identified two higher level challenges as goals supported by four challenges that would drive their business for the next year or more and restore the price of their stock. The goals were: “How might we increase our top line and earnings growth?” and “How might we get the Wall Street analysts excited about our future?”  Below these goals were four supporting challenges which were more specific:  (1) How might we commercialize more new products every year?; (2) How might we take advantage of the current low stock market prices (of other companies to build up our own sales volume?); (3) How might we change our business mix to improve consistency?  (there were gaps in their menu of offerings); and (4) How might we increase cash flow to 100% of net income? (up from the current 80%).  They then engaged inter functional and inter divisional teams across the company to begin solving these four key challenges.

The innovation process helped them create and commit to a bold strategic plan. The company became even stronger as a result of the crisis. The stock price was restored in less than two years and the business continued to grow steadily for years to come.  So why do I tell this story?  Most of us remember the impact of 9/11 and how it reshaped the world we live in. We all felt shell-shocked and uncertain as to all the unknowns in front of us. Starting with a fuzzy challenge like “I don’t know what to do next” is okay.  You need a starting point, a problem even as loosely defined as this is something to start fact finding around.

Over my lifetime, I’ve seen a lot of upheaval and amazing innovation in our world. I have no doubt that some amazing innovations will be made in the days ahead, as we come together as one global community.  Stay safe but more importantly, stay positive — we are all innovators who can and will rise up during a crisis.