Diverge Off The Problem Before You Converge On The Solution

To solve a difficult challenge, come up with as many solution ideas as possible.  Then “murder your darlings”.  Converge on the best idea.

diverge converge

visual by drawingoutideas.com


Good ideas

The story I most often tell myself about ideas is the one Steven Johnson articulates in his book, Where Do Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation. “Good ideas normally come from the collision of smaller hunches, so that they form something bigger than themselves.”

The most successful tool I’ve found for generating ideas is curiosity; genuine curiosity; active listening.  Questions lead to ideas lead to more questions and so on; preferably a variety and richness of ideas; multiple, diverse perspectives. Options galore.

Murder your darlings 

“In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” The quote is attributed to writer, William Faulkner.

Bring focus. Remove distractions.  Get rid of what’s so-so.

If you’re like me, murdering ideas doesn’t come easy. We tend to see ourselves as owner of our ideas. Letting go of them gets personal. As an antidote, when I get too self-congratulatory, I recall the African proverb: “Alone, I have seen many marvelous things, none of which were true”.

More ways to converge on a solution

Here’s three other ways for processing divergent ideas, and converging on solutions:

  1. Sleep on your ideas. Let your ideas incubate. Ideas are like perennials. They will return, though, maybe in a new face; the solution? Our brain is wired to connect. Let it.
  2. Recognize idea patterns. See the relationship between different objects; their common essence. Disparate ideas emerge into a pattern. Innovation expert Michael Michalko speaks of “conceptual blending”; the ability to make connections and associations between dissimilar concepts. It’s what the great thinkers have done; da Vinci, Newton, Einstein…
  3. Intersect ideas. Like a land surveyor, triangulate on multiple ideas. As a “formula for fixing the hardest problems” Frank Weil chairs The InterSector Project, promoting tri-sector (business, government, not-for-profit) leadership and collaborative governance.

Right attitude goes far. “Creative thinkers are born through intention and desire, positive approaches, and daily habits.”

What story do you tell yourself or others about murdering darlings?

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