Breathing in, breathing out
I have compared the process of divergence (coming up with a large number of ideas) and convergence (narrowing those ideas down to something workable to try) to breathing. This is a useful simile because it drives home the point that you can’t breathe in and breathe out at the same time.
Today I invite you to compare the process of divergence and convergence to panning for gold.
Panning for gold
When panning for gold, first the gold seeker finds a suitable stream or creek where flakes of gold are likely to be washed from upstream. Then a shallow pan is used to collect some of the deposits at the edge of the stream along with some water. Then by swirling the pan, the material is separated according to its density, leaving the heaviest elements at the bottom, sometimes including gold.
Lesson 1: Load the pan with what’s available
I find this comparison helpful because many idea generating participants find the task of creating new ideas for the divergence stage daunting. How am I supposed to introduce new ideas when everything has already been done?
What you “load into the pan” doesn’t have to be brand new! It can be material that already exists, which you then “pan” to see if bits of gold are revealed.
Lesson 2: Use your judgement
We can use our judgement to determine where best to look for material. Many of the best ideas are from adjacent varieties of products and services.
When Ford began making its best-selling pickup with substantial amounts of aluminum, it was panning the waters downstream of the aircraft industry which knew that aluminum was not only lighter weight, but durable enough for commercial aviation.
Lesson 3: Get your hands dirty
Just like you wouldn’t stand on the bank of a creek and peer through the water for gold, you need to get down into the muck, put together some raw material and sift through it, if you want to find that valuable flash of brilliance.