The creative heart has a rhythm of expanding and contracting.
When it expands, it creates possibilities, generating ideas, divergent in its thinking, exploring, and pursuing some even further. When it contracts, it is evaluating, assessing, honing, editing, eliminating, critiquing.
Divergence and convergence.
In any given moment, we do one or the other.
The mistake that creatives, innovators, designers and project managers make is that they confuse the two at the same moment. This is the equivalent in creativity to a cardiac arrest.
For example, consider this piece that you are reading right now. I drafted it, and then I came back and edited it. I used to draft and edit at the same time. I did this because I felt unable to risk producing something truly awful. So I allowed my Inner Critic to be criticising me all the time. Over time, I learned to either draft or edit, but never at the same time. I learned to tell the Inner Critic to go away for now and I will risk producing poor work. I now realise that I needed to develop this self-awareness during the authoring process.
I have seen this pattern of divergences and convergence as well in product development as part of projects and programmes. The more successful projects have had this rhythm or tempo of development and then testing or assurance, never both at the same time. It’s a heartbeat. At the personal or team level this beat of divergence and then convergence can last a few hours or a couple of weeks.
At the overall programme level, it can last several months, where different part of the capability and built then tested, where each operational unit goes through their own testing, then commissioning. At that moment, it can look confusing, but it has an order to it.
It’s up to leaders to make sense of this for everybody. A good leader explains what’s going on and why we can’t do both things at once.