I had a conversation this week with a person who had a breakthrough type experience working with a group of about 50 people and wanted to discuss ways of increasing the chances of this kind of thing happening when working with groups.
An important aspect of any collaboration design that is intended to produce breakthrough thinking or high levels of innovation is the “diverge (a lot) before you begin to converge (gradually)” on the solution approach.
Groups not accustomed to complex collaboration methods are often tempted to begin working towards a solution as quickly as possible. Regrettably, this rarely produces the type of solution that stakeholders will commit to or that takes into consideration all the factors necessary for success.
Furthermore, the divergence process can be uncomfortable as the group opens into the “groan zone” of uncertainty and frustration presents itself. It is hard to work through these ‘moments of discomfort” and avoid the tendency to converge before the right solution space has been discovered by the group as a whole. When this occurs the group leader really needs to be confident in the tools they are using to guide the participants through this complexity and – only when the time is right – help them transition to a more structured convergence towards a solution.