In my previous post on Agile Creative Destruction, I introduced the concept of creativity. I mentioned that there is a need to adjust our mindset so as to break the culture lock-in we are often prisoners of. A few days ago, I was at the theatre with my wife and daughters watching the last episode of the Divergent Series: Allegiant. I was fascinated by the main character Tris in the way that she dealt with complex situations, risks and the unknown.
Through my research on Agile Creative Destruction, I found that the underlying element in all innovation is creativity.
The word creativity was used in the 1880s by William James to support his theory of creativity. He implies that it resides within a person but that the environment is crucial.
Creativity is also linked with the process of discovery which can take two possible paths. One is Convergent thinking—focussing down. This is the kind of thinking conventionally practised in operating organizations and is the way factions are designed in the movie. The second path is Divergent thinking—a matter of opening-up. This is less popular in organizations because its purpose is to cast the broadest possible net while searching for solutions. It involves the ability to switch from one perspective to another fluently as well as the ability to make unusual associations to generate possibilities. This is the way Tris’ mind works in the trilogy.
Divergent thinking is made up of three highly interlinking and overlapping phases: search, incubation and collisions. These phases constitute the unique hub of the discovery process. Contrary to this, Convergent thinking involves solving well-defined, rational problems that have a single correct answer and aim at controlling operations. The creative process is deeply human and difficult for managers to see a recognizable parallel in the operating disciplines of decision-making, measurement and control found in organizations.
Who are creative people? Those who excel in the creative process? Creative people tend to have high aspirations and to be energetic. They are open to new experiences, emotions and are risk takers. They are passionate, impatient, self-motivated individuals who are complex, smart, and comfortable with ambiguity and risk. They are willing to gamble a lot because of the happiness and deep satisfaction the creative experience brings them. This is what distinguishes them from typical problem solvers. An organization focussing on creativity will take great care in selecting people with talent who are skilled in creative and exploratory work. It is the type of work where the answer is not known by experts.
Most members of management have demonstrated their skills in operations before being managers. They are experts at answering questions—not asking questions. Changing a company’s mind-set from the assumption of continuity and operations to creative work involves moving out of the comfort zone for most managers. It requires a change in the control systems.
Control is the visible expression of Convergent thinking. Its purpose is to eliminate surprise. In contrast, the purpose of Divergent thinking is to create surprise!
Control needs a stable environment to work yet Divergent thinking fosters a dynamic environment. Control systems crush Divergent thinking and creativity while Divergent thinking environments celebrate solving a puzzle.
To apply Agile Creative-Destruction, team members and management must adopt a creative mind in order to discover new possibilities. In the fast paced market, to stay competitive and continue to innovate, organizations must go beyond Convergent thinking and embrace change via an Agile mindset. To promote Divergent thinking, it is critical for Agile-Scrum teams to have upper management’s support. They must be allowed to self organize and propose creative responses to complex problems. In the Divergent Series: Allegiant, we see the leaders trying to keep control, but Divergent thinking cannot be put in a box. It is the essence of innovation. Divergent thinking is the way to help organizations stay on the innovation path and Agile Methodologies offer the techniques to get the results.