Do you work on complex projects that involving multiple workstreams?
Have you ever attempted to think about your complex projects without using your project tracking software?
What is Parallel Thinking?
I developed this concept a few months ago to explain how I think about complex projects and situations comprised of multiple work streams that will converge at at final product. Parallel Thinking is dividing the project into as many parallel, independent streams of work as possible and viewing them totally in isolation. Isolating the work streams makes monitoring progress and anticipating upcoming challenges much easier and faster.
Why is it Important?
When I use a project tracking software package such as Microsoft’s “Project”, I find that can only focus on one to three tasks at a time. I can also look at groups of subtasks but not with sufficient detail to be helpful. A 42″ monitor might improve the process, but that is not an option for me – it won’t fit in my office. Since I think best in colors and images , I found that visualizing the problem and its solutions was the best alternative available to me.
How I do it?
This is how I breakdown a project and develop solutions.
- Start with the end result you want. You must know your desired outcome before you start.
- Divide the outcome into independent parts that are not dependent on one another. These parts will converge near the end of the project to create the new product.
- Subdivide these independent parts into smaller, independent, but interrelated work streams. I call these subdivisions “channels”. ** **
- Take each of these channels and view them in isolation.
- Develop options that achieve your goal for each channel.
- Connect various options to find a route to the outcome.
- Repeat until you find the most viable outcome.
A doctor analyzed this thought process and called it “divergent thinking”. The problem with divergent thinking, when taken to the extreme, is that the problem is never resolved. While I use divergent thinking, I limit the time I spend on it. When the limit is reached, I switch to “convergent thinking” and take the diverse ideas and concepts and bring them together into a coherent solution.
This method can take more time that just brainstorming or proceeding without much forethought, but the results can be amazing.
For more on divergent and convergent thinking, visit: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/beautiful-minds/201202/both-convergent-and-divergent-thinking-are-necessary-creativity.
What is your idea and solution development process?
Do you have a favorite technique?
Have you used divergent thinking?
Do you have a story you can share with us in the comments?