Inspire, Diverge, Converge

I recently co-led a workshop for another design group within my company where we aimed to determine the best way to partner with and synergize our groups’ talents to expand a new service line. To kick things off, and before jumping into any workshop specifics, (9:00 am on a Monday morning), a leader of my group began with a couple videos.    The content, very much a future state but relative to the work we do, was exciting and inspiring - exactly what we needed at 9:00 am on a Monday morning.  Actually, wait…we should be inspired not just early on a Monday morning...we need to do this more.

As we came to the end of the video and jumped into our session, it was clear that everyone was energized and ready to learn and work towards a solution.  It was obvious that we all had at the top of our minds the possible.

I work in a design group and we design and build app prototypes aimed to excite and display the “possible.”  A part of our job is to do exactly what this 9 am video set out to do with the clients we work with.

But what is inspiration if it doesn’t lead to a tangible result?  How do we harness this creative momentum and create impact?

A formula I see as powerful in range of situations goes as such:  Inspire.  Think divergently. Converge.

Inspiration is simply showing what is possible while creating excitement in the process.  This excitement can be harvested into what is called “divergent thinking,” an exercise where a prompt is given and we generate many ideas from this starting point (Diverging from a source of information- you may be familiar with the antiquated term “brainstorm?”).  The next step is critical- we now we have a bunch of ideas but no application.  We should measure and assess these ideas for solutions against some criteria or standards.  This is the “convergent thinking” piece (As we measure each output of our divergent thinking, we converge on a single or narrowed down list of solutions that make sense given the problem's attributes.). 

It’s exciting and fun to inspire and speak to the possible, but without taking some next steps it’s really only just that, fun.  Actually wait; it’s more than that…It can be a serious problem for a project.  If we only inspire, we run the very serious risk of potentially misleading.  Clients get excited and may assume promises are being made. 

We want to excite, show the possible and then have a conversation as to what the most appropriate solution may be given the client’s needs and constraints.  Maybe we go for everything…but at what cost?  Maybe we prioritize some of this blue sky thinking which will have the most impact (a more realistic scenario).

If you read only this:  Harness the power of inspiration, but follow with some next steps and ensure that everyone is as excited with the outcome as they were when the conversations began.