It can be difficult not to think in absolutes in business. Unfortunately, we often hear stories that paint black-and-white pictures.
" 5 ways to guarantee x."
"3 reasons you're not achieving y."
While they're great for marketing, the reality is that a lot of magic happens in the grey area (but you already know that because you read the previous article in this series, right?)
So, I'm going to come out and say it. The opposite of moving fast and breaking things isn't zero growth.
In fact, there's a sweet spot on the spectrum of growth and choice that accounts for the type of growth you're after but still asks you to be thoughtful and strategic about the way you approach experimentation in your business.
At this point, you've learned the value of thinking like a scientist, creating an agile strategy, and measuring experiments in your business. Now it's time to learn how to iterate well.
Resist the Urge
When an experiment doesn't go exactly the way we had hoped (or planned for), it can be easy for our emotions to dictate our actions. I've seen firsthand how frustration and a sense of urgency impact owners' and leaders' choices. Let me tell you, it's messy and costs a lot of money in the end.
I don't want that for you.
Instead, I want you to be able to look at the results of your experiment and know what type of thinking you need to deploy to move forward effectively.
Enter divergent and convergent thinking.
Simply put, divergent thinking is when you brainstorm a lot of different ideas about one thing. For example, if I showed you a paperclip and said what else could this be? You might say it could be a bookmark, lock pick, or even a brush cleaner.
Divergent thinking is the definition of "thinking outside of the box." It's the most helpful when you're trying to generate a wide range of ideas or solutions. It is often used at the start of a project.
We naturally favor divergent or convergent thinking, so it pays to practice both because your business needs it.
Here's a couple of things you can do to practice divergent thinking:
- Brainstorm. This is obvious but put requirements on it. I do certain work with clients where I ask them to generate a minimum of 10 different options before we narrow it down.
- Mind Mapping. Fancy yourself a visual person? Me too, and that's why I love mind mapping! For example, if you want to understand your clients better, draft an empathy map.
Convergent thinking, on the other hand, is focused on optimizing based on the data you have available to you to reach one conclusion.
There's this scene in Apollo 13 where they're trying to figure out how to get the team back down to earth. They recreate the team's exact conditions and what is available to them onboard. The solutions and resources are limited, and that's precisely why they were convergent in their thinking.
Convergent thinking is helpful when you have a clearly defined problem, data to assess, and a specific outcome you're after.
Here's what you can do to practice convergent thinking:
- Be a Business Scientist. The great news is that you're already practicing this. You're defining a problem, gathering data, and assessing it. All of that is key to convergent thinking.
The Results Dictate Your Approach
Now that you're on your way to being a certified business scientist, you can discern what type of thinking is needed to move forward.
Toward the end of the last article, I asked you two very important questions:
- What data did you gather?
- Were you able to realize your strategy?
Here are a couple of different options for how you can proceed based on your data and answers:
- Strategy still needs to be realized, but data says we're making progress.
You don't need to reinvent the wheel; you don't need more ideas. This is the perfect time for you to hone in on your data and refine your plans. Although it can be disappointing not to realize your strategy fully, you are making progress. It will likely happen with a few adjustments. The results are telling you to be way more convergent with your thinking.
- Strategy still needs to be realized, and data says we are not making progress.
Moments like this are why I spoke about intelligent failures in the first article. It's tough; it feels like a setback, but it's not. You made a thoughtful experiment, and you now have more data than before. This is the perfect moment to go all out with your divergent thinking and brainstorm or mindmap new ideas.
- Strategy was realized, and the data says so too.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. This seems like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised how often people pursue divergent thinking, even when something *is* working. If your data shows you're growing, look to refine rather than reinvent continually.
Get to experimenting! I specifically used the word experiment because that's what these last (3) articles have been about; You’re gaining the knowledge to experiment in your business (but just a little more strategically.)
It's easy to think that the people or companies you look up to got there through a bulletproof strategy, but the reality is that they probably experimented a ton along the way. Rather than throwing spaghetti at the wall, they got clear on where they wanted to go, tested, looked at their data, and iterated.
That's what being a business scientist is all about.
If you want to go back and read Part 1 and Part 2 of this you can do so by following the links below:
The Scientist v the Visionary
As always, if you're left with thoughts or questions, my inbox is always open here!