Understanding Convergence and Divergence for Leaders

Convergence and divergence business/sociology term that refers to the way that groups tend to grow to become more and more like the other members of that group. In other words, if you spend time in a group of people with a particular accent and particular habits and views, then most of the time you are likely to find yourself speaking with that accent and adopting some of those habits and views. That’s convergence; divergence meanwhile however refers to the way in which those groups grow to become more unlike other groups so that they develop a kind of group identity. This is often how feuds and disagreements start so you need to keep an eye on it.

So what does this have to do with leadership? Simple: if you are leading groups, then you need to recognize the tendency for sub groups to form. This is why many offices will end up becoming somewhat tribal – where the accounting department is made up of one clique for instance, while sales might be another.

Convergence is a good thing if you can encourage it as a way to get all of your staff to feel like they’re part of the same group and working towards the same cause (as long as they aren’t too much of a clique when you get new staff), but it’s a bad thing if it means they become narrow-minded and don’t take on board other vies and it’s certainly bad news if it means that the finance department goes to war with HR. It’s your job to prevent this happening and one of the best ways to accomplish this is to make sure you keep rotating and mixing up the teams so that there is constantly new blood and they are constantly woken up to outside views.

Another option to prevent convergence from happening to a large extent is to ensure that you engage in group activities for the whole office/team. That might mean days out to team building events, or just the occasional party.

Finally, keep in mind that convergence can be a destructive force even when it affects the entire team and seems to bind them together. Diversity is crucially important for any system, as a way to prevent defects from becoming magnified, and to help bring new creative ideas to the workflow.

Keep looking for outside influences, and don’t allow your team to become too cliquey.

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