Convergence happens at the end of a standard meeting, a brainstorming session or any other group task. This phase enables the group to align their actions and reach a shared conclusion, whether that’s making a decision or not.
There are 3 scenarios in which convergence is necessary:
- when several proposals have been put forward
E.g.: a team is working together to compile its projects for the coming year. After numerous discussions, various different proposals are put forward.
- when one single proposal has been put forward
E.g.: a company is trying to formulate its mission and aims. After numerous discussions, one of the members presents a proposal to the group and formulates a statement.
- when no proposals are put forward
E.g.: an association is trying to define its governance method. After numerous discussions, there are still significant areas of divergence.
To converge, intransitive verb (from the Latin convergere):
Source: Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries
- (of people or vehicles) to move towards a place from different directions and meet: Thousands of supporters converged on London for the rally.
- (of two or more lines, paths, etc.) to move towards each other and meet at a point: There was a signpost where the two paths converged.
- if ideas, policies, aims, etc. converge, they become very similar or the same: The aims of the two developments can and should converge.
Depending on what scenario your group finds itself in, below are a choice of methods that you can suggest to facilitate convergence:
Scenario n°1: if several proposals have been put forward
- Cumulative voting
Everyone has a set number of votes that they can allocate as they wish to the different ideas. Votes can be represented by coloured stickers (1 sticker = 1 vote) or by tally.
- Criteria-based voting
Ask the participants to evaluate each proposal in line with a set of criteria, such as:
- NUF (New, Useful, Feasible)
- The level of impact of the idea and the level of effort to implement it
- importance, urgency, willingness, etc.
Taking the concept of cumulative voting even further, this method reflects the nuances of participants’ preferences, giving them the freedom to comment, ask questions or make suggestions.
- Desire-based decision-making
Ask the group to vote for the projects by getting them to sign their name next to the ones they would like to invest in. Those that don’t get any or very few votes are put to one side.
- Applause meter
Ask the group to express their choices by making noise in response to the proposals they like best. Those that generate the highest decibels will be chosen!
Scenario n°2: if one single proposal is put forward
- Majority vote (show of thumbs)
A proposal is presented to the group: everyone votes with their thumbs.
- thumb up = in favour of the proposal
- horizontal thumb = in favour of the proposal but the participant also has something to say (not critical)
- thumb down = against the proposal due to an objection
- open palm = neutral, doesn’t mind what decision is made
- Consent-based decision making
Instead of seeking unanimity (the approval of everyone), the idea is to validate a proposal if everyone consents, i.e. if nobody has any objections.
- Advice process
Any one person or part of a group may make a decision that impacts the whole group if they consult those impacted and subject specialists.
Scenario n°3: no proposals are put forward
Following a discussion, the group may find that it is not able to come up with any solutions for various reasons:
- The group does not have all the necessary information
- The participants are not in agreement and are still divided on several points
- The group doesn’t have enough time
As facilitator, you play a key role in helping the group take a step back and realise this.
Converging is also sometimes simply about having a shared outlook on a situation and agreeing on the next step to be able to move forward with the problem.