Being able to have contextual focus – striking the balance and timing between divergence (identifying options) and convergence (selecting options) is critical to your success in creativity and innovation.
So, imagine that you are in a brainstorming session with your team to solve some pressing challenge in the organization. Then the team leader asks everyone for ideas. As each person speaks she shuts them down quickly, killing the ideas and punching holes in them.
After a few tries, you will find that other team members, afraid that their ideas will also be torn apart, will refrain from further contributions. The team leader will end up with the ideas that she came with herself, which may not be the best ideas, and would have alienated the rest of the team from the eventual solution, limiting its impact. This way she has both diverged and converged.
In a similar vein, the team leader could jump at the first “smart” answer that is provided, fall in love with it and jettison any further ideas from the team. Again, what may seem like a “smart” answer may not be that effective, especially since there may have been many more smart answers out there.
Contextual Focus therefore requires us to spend and set aside time for divergence, and then set aside time for convergence. It requires us to deploy techniques and approaches that separate these two events, reflecting thefollowing core principles:
- When diverging – go for quantity; defer evaluation, build on others’ ideas and seek novelty (keep pushing for new things)
- When converging – use affirmative judgment; keep novelty alive; stay focused on your goals; and keep checking your original objectives.