The Methodology Of Convergence

Processing Digital Innovation

Describe the tongue of the woodpecker!

Leonardo da Vinci, Notes (to-do-list), 1490

Introductory thoughts

Conventionally, digital business projects are limited to transposing the existent knowledge into a digital format, in order to get more transparency and some automated features. In many situations, this limited scope cannot create value; the solutions are not adapted to the dynamic reality and to business development needs. As a matter of fact, this is the hidden problem that causes significant failures within the digital business realm.    

Statistics show that 75% of IT projects tend to fail. For instance, in the US more than $100 billion are wasted every year when invested into these failed projects. More of 90% of IT projects exceed projected budgets, with 50% of them going over a planned sum with more than 200%. Experience shows that more than 90% of the problems that are related to business analysis fail. The lack of a defined scope creates communication issues. These, in turn, create inconsistencies and failures.

Digital initiatives are not about technology; they are about knowledge creation. Therefore, the fact is that digital initiatives should develop a better understanding of their scope. This requires a change in the methodology, which should be designed to better interpret reality, in order to eventually produce overall development.

The philosophy of knowledge

Knowledge creation is arguably the most important aspect of the digital innovation venture. For this reason, it is important to choose a theory of knowledge which could essentially be implemented methodologically.

The beliefs-facts tradeoff.

Let’s take Bertrand Russell[1] philosophical framework, as he claimed that any theory of knowledge is a product either of unknown or of doubt. When we ask ourselves whether we really know anything at all, we are naturally led into an examination of knowing, in the hope of being able to distinguish trustworthy beliefs from those that are truly untrustworthy. Few philosophers nowadays would assign to this subject quite such a fundamental importance as Immanuel Kant did, in his critical system. It is perhaps inappropriate to begin with a definition of the subject, since, as elsewhere in philosophical discussions, definitions are controversial and will necessarily differ from one school of thought to another. However, we may at least say that the subject is concerned with the general conditions of knowledge, as they throw light upon truth and falsehood.

The question how knowledge should be defined is perhaps one of the most important, yet the most difficult topic for humanity today. This is, in fact, paradoxical. For one, knowledge might be defined as a belief which is in agreement with the facts. The trouble is that no one knows what a belief is, no one knows what a fact is, and no one knows what sort of agreement between them would make a belief true.

Knowledge is the continuous tradeoff between beliefs and facts.

The mystery processing philosophy

The idea of the relationship between the knowledge funnel and business was coined by Roger Martin in his seminal work, Design of Business.[2] For sure, Kant, Hume, Nietzsche and Russell have already contoured the ways we may be able to use knowledge in order to understand human beings. Thus, Roger Martin’s profile is somehow unusual, as he is a professor of behavioral finance at Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. While not a philosopher, his theory of knowledge  deserves its due attention. Indeed, the dynamic vocation of knowledge proposes a reliable interpretation of reality.    

  • The first stage of the funnel is the exploration of a mystery. From the business perspective, the focus is more on business objects without any explicit relationship among them. Having the scope in mind the object definition is compulsory.
  • The next stage of the funnel is a heuristic. The heuristic may be a set of processes, rules and decisions that may connect previously defined business objects in a rational way. It is a way of thinking about the mystery that provides a simplified understanding and allows heuristic creators to focus their efforts. It is the initial creation of business models.
  • “Algorithms are certified production processes. They guarantee that, in the absence of intervention or complete anomaly, following the sequence of steps they embody will produce a particular result ensuring the success of the entire approach.” (See Roger Martin, 2009)

The knowledge funnel is a great visual description of the building knowledge process. It should be the basis of all innovation initiatives today.

The developmental dynamics

I found the story about Charles Sanders Pierce[3] in Martin’s Design of Business too. Afterwards, I explored his work; I discovered a wonderful renaissance mind. His work is an immense contribution to knowledge as logic processing.

Logical leaps are human processes that shape the visual and psychological circumstances for the improvement of knowledge that eventually leads to the creation of real business development. They are the only sustainable innovation assets. Logical leaps occur only in some specific conditions that are related to a framework that activate brains for producing innovation. They are the intellectual means that move knowledge from an inferior level to the superior one. Logical leaps are connected to how the human brain functions.

Projects Methodology Disconnections

Most of the CIO and project managers consider that failures in the realm of digital ventures are not related to the technology or to the project members’ skills, but rather to communication.

However, the real problem is related to the norms of methodology. The business analysis methodological design is the root of failure. It is about how the methodological journey can be connected to a rational interpretation of certain situations. I believe that business analysis methodologies are essentially ideological propaganda, focused on the journey and not necessarily on the truth. Therefore, existent methodologies are disconnected from the scope of the project because of a false interpretation of the reality.

There are three types of disconnections related to the methodology of digital project implementations.

  1. Conventional projects methodologies (including ITIL). They are not related to the new human interpretations of realities. These methodologies are:

(1) Interview; (2) Text; (3) “Voting”- based approaches. The basis of the deliverables is strictly rooted in the “as-is” framework and it cannot exceed the biased operational and financial zones.

  • The custom methodologies of business consulting firms for digital ventures (including The Big4). The minimal risk consulting practice leads the methodology to a non-implementable approach. As a matter of fact, in any circumstance, a “serious” consulting firm does not assume the implementation part. In this context, the value added is either inexistent or debatable (at the very least). These methods of business analysis fail in generating implementation algorithms. They even might be responsible for problems in digital business initiatives. They neglect the mystery zone and do not give any perspective about required convergences that define algorithms. These methodologies are promoted by experts who pretend they know the algorithms before exploring the mystery zone and before creating heuristics.
  • The new “sacred cows”[4] (including agile & design-thinking). Many consulting firms have recently started to offer design thinking-based services. This approach is based on Roger Martin’s aforementioned intellectual work by and large. The objectives are awareness, as well as iteration and creation of a prototype. The new methodologies are rooted in directing collaborative shows without any valid outcome. Agile project management method is costly and time consuming (the necessary time for implementation exceeds with more than 50% the time of waterfall project management). Further, design-thinking (with its sprint design extension) has serious limitations in producing value (75% of sprint design ventures fail). As long as the classical business analysis methodologies neglect the mystery in any consulting venture, moving straight to an illusory and, in most cases, incorrect algorithm, the design-thinking methodology does not take into account the heuristics zone of the knowledge funnel. The elements of the business model (such as processes, rules, decisions, and cases) are missing. Moreover, the short version of the design-thinking (sprint design) is just a business bubble; the rate of success in terms of sustaining innovation is insignificant. 

The Art of Convergence

Convergence is a thinking process that allows the translation of knowledge, experiences, and abilities to a visual algorithm that aims to solve a specific business problem or requirement. The convergence is the actual framework of knowledge creation; it is the visual representation of a solution that may allow the logical leaps to new levels of understanding the reality. It is the innovation tool that uses the transdisciplinary profile of the creator.

In the digital innovation, convergence is an art, not necessarily a science. It fundamentally depends on the ability and, in many cases, on the imagination of the creator. This job exceeds the UX and UI, even the design-thinking abilities; it is essentially something different. It is the expert who can understand the involved objects, the process-driven linkage among them, and the construction of visual artifacts, in order to create a visual complete algorithm as a digital response to a specific business issue.

The methodology of convergence. The methodology aims to combine technicalities of the mystery and heuristics zones of the funnel with the art of convergence required for creating a visual algorithm that might be validated for the future production process. The convergence method is the transition from the parallel consulting, that aims to define business objects and the relationships among them, to the visual digital prototype. Only the (high definition) prototype can allow logical leaps for knowledge development and validated improvements. 

A close up of a device

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The methodology of convergence aims to specifically define the levels of the knowledge funnel by business consulting concepts. The methodology proposes the following stages:

  1. Mystery as objects definition. This is the static part of the approach. It is a detailed description of who and what from different perspectives, based on various personas.
  2. Heuristics as interaction definition. This is the dynamic part, when objects interact as business models that activate the design and execution of processes, rules, decisions, and cases.
  3. Convergence zone as transdisciplinary[5] mechanism. “Transdisciplinarity concerns that which is at once between the disciplines, across the different disciplines, and beyond all discipline,” as Basarab Nicolescu the initiator of the movement states, and its aim is the unity of knowledge together with the unity of our being. “Its goal is the understanding of the present world, of which one of the imperatives is the unity of knowledge,” Nicolescu argues. The convergence zone requires thinking, imagination, creativity that are rooted in experience and a special understanding of the project reality and its context.
  4. Prototyping as logical leap facilitator. The development of the business by digital innovation and transformation requires positioning to new levels of knowledge. Overtime, this positive transformation has been differently facilitated by means built according to the evolution of the human brain. Today, the most useful method is the visual one. It is a more accepted truth that the human brain is a continuous transformation. Therefore, tools for aligning the development requirements to the new structure of the human brain are critical assets for any growth scenario. Internet has transformed the human brain[6]; therefore, today, only functional visual artifacts can facilitate the logical leaps.

The methodology of convergence covers the entire spectrum of zones related to the knowledge funnel and impacts (at least) four domains of project processing:

  1. Project management approach. In software projects there are two main schools of project management that go head-to-head regarding planning and human interaction: first, there is “waterfall” (classical approach). Second, there is “Agile” (a new wave). Both are well structured approaches. However, the methods fail if they are treated separately in the implementation of digital initiatives based on two stages (i.e. business analysis and IT execution). The convergent methodology proposes ways to use both methods in order to create performance. Based on an extensive experience our team has observed that the Agile method is more appropriate for the initial stages of the project (until the high-fidelity prototype is delivered and validated). On the other hand, the waterfall method is more functional for the IT execution.
  2. Minimum viable product (MVP). Eric Ries and Steve Blank have described the concept as being a version of a product that can satisfy the client’s requirements and provide feedback for the future.[7] However, MVP has not been satisfactory, and the creation has proven as being costly (in many cases extremely costly). Today, MVP is increasingly replaced by prototypes (usually a high-fidelity one) that are related to building knowledge more than technology ability. As a matter of fact, the concept of minimum viable product has not kept its promise of creating a lean approach.
  3. Complexity processor. The continuous production of visual artefacts creates the best method to simplify the complexity of the context. This complexity is done by the environment and by the exceptional situations in which the user is exposed to. The convergent methodology allows the logical transfer of the exceptionalities to rule-based situations. 
  4. User’s story collection method. Convergent methodology proposes a change in story collections from interviews to dynamic “naming and framing” sessions based on structured discussions and tradeoffs. Naming and framing is the core of the deliberative dialogue.

Some final notes

The methodology of convergence for business analysis in digital initiatives is based on the present-day transformation of the environment, people, people’ brains, technology, and knowledge. It aims to create a success framework for IT execution, money saving schemes, simplification of the input complexity, and a better response to disruptive businesses and technologies.

The methodology aims to bridge the gap between management consulting and software execution. It is organically linked to digital innovation. However, we consider that any digital venture is an innovative journey because logical leaps are required in order to go to the next level of development from business perspective.

The methodology of convergence is an original methodological journey developed and implemented by a group of consultants from Axiobit Limited (axiobit.com).


[1] See Bertrand Russell. Theory of Knowledge: The 1913 Manuscript. Routledge 1992

[2] See Roger Martin: Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage(2009).

[3] https://aeon.co/essays/charles-sanders-peirce-was-americas-greatest-thinker

Note: The leading Peirce scholar ever, Max Fisch, described Peirce’s intellectual significance in this paragraph from 1981: Who is the most original and the most versatile intellect that the Americas have so far produced? The answer ‘Charles S Peirce’ is uncontested, because any second would be so far behind as not to be worth nominating. Mathematician, astronomer, chemist, geodesist, surveyor, cartographer, metrologist, spectroscopist, engineer, inventor; psychologist, philologist, lexicographer, historian of science, mathematical economist, lifelong student of medicine; book reviewer, dramatist, actor, short-story writer; phenomenologist, semiotician, logician, rhetorician [and] metaphysician … He was, for a few examples, … the first metrologist to use a wave-length of light as a unit of measure, the inventor of the quincuncial projection of the sphere, the first known conceiver of the design and theory of an electric switching-circuit computer, and the founder of ‘the economy of research’. He is the only system-building philosopher in the Americas who has been both competent and productive in logic, in mathematics, and in a wide range of sciences. If he has had any equals in that respect in the entire history of philosophy, they do not number more than two.

[4] See Jake Breeden. Tipping Sacred Cows. Kick the Bad Work Habits that Masquerade as Virtues. 2013 Jossey-Bass, an imprint of John Wiley & Sons

NOTE: Goa is a resort town in India. The meaning is “the region of cows”. Cows are considered sacred animals in India. In Goa, they wander at will through the city streets, adorned with necklaces and strings of flowers made by adoring worshippers. The incessant cow traffic creates problems for the drivers who are trying to navigate Goa’s city streets. “The more you espouse virtues without questioning them, the harder it gets to see when they’ve become sacred cows.” Similarly, in Western society, sacred cows that are related to revered ideas that people never question, can obstruct progress and the smooth flow of ideas. Conventional business wisdom offers seven sacred cows: “balance, excellence, creativity, fairness, passion, preparedness and collaboration” – that supposedly all good citizens should bring to their work. People generally regard these ideas as cardinal virtues because they deliver real value and provide a moral compass. But sometimes, as with Goa’s cows, they can create unintended negative consequences, including wasted time, annoyance, poor performance and emotional exhaustion. India’s sacred cows are easy to spot, so people avoid them. In Wester society, they are exposed as means that may lead you to success; in many cases masquerade becomes virtue.

[5] See Basarab Nicolescu: Manifesto of Transdisciplinarity. NY State University Press, 2002

Note_1: Basarab Nicolescu (born March 25, 1942, Ploieşti, Romania) is an honorary theoretical physicist at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Laboratoire de Physique Nucléaire et de Hautes Énergies, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris. He is also a Professor at the Babeş-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania and Docteur ès-Sciences Physiques (PhD), 1972, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris. He was appointed Professor Extraordinary at Stellenbosch University, South Africa for the period 1 January 2011 to 31 December 2016 and was elected as Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS) Fellow in 2011.He is the president and founder of the International Center for Transdisciplinary Research and Studies (CIRET), a non-profit organization (167 members from 30 countries). In addition, he is the co-founder, with René Berger, of the Study Group on Transdisciplinarity at UNESCO (1992) and the founder and Director of the “Transdisciplinarity” Series, Rocher Editions, Monaco and of the “Romanians of Paris”, Piktos/Oxus Editions, Paris.

Note_2: Nicolescu points out the danger of self-destruction caused by modernism and increased technologization and offers alternative ways of approaching them, using a transdisciplinary approach that propels us beyond the thinking that gave rise to the antagonisms that produced the problems in the first place. The logic of the included middle permits “this duality [to be] transgressed by the open unity that encompasses both the universe and the human being.” Thus, approaching problems in a transdisciplinary way enables one to move beyond dichotomized thinking, into the space that lies beyond.  Nicolescu calls on us to rethink everything in terms of what quantum physics has shown us about the nature of the universe. Besides offering an alternative to thinking exclusively in terms of binary logic, and showing how the idea of the logic of the included middle can afford hitherto unimagined possibilities, he also introduces us to the idea that Reality is not something that exists on only one level, but on many, and maintains that only transdisciplinarity can deal with the dynamics engendered by the action of several levels of Reality at once. It is for this reason that transdisciplinarity is radically distinct from multidisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity, although it is often confused with both. Moreover, because of the fact that reality has more than a single level, binary logic, the logic that one uses to cross a street and avoid being hit by a truck, cannot possibly be applied to all of the levels. It simply does not work. Nicolescu explains it is only the logic of the included middle that can be adequate for complex situations, like those we must confront in the educational, political, social, religious and cultural arenas. As he writes, “The transdisciplinary viewpoint allows us to consider a multidimensional Reality, structured by multiple levels replacing the single-level, one-dimensional reality of classical thought.” See Karen-Claire Voss http://www.esoteric.msu.edu/Reviews/NicolescuReview.htm

[6] See Nicholas Carr. The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing with Our Brains. W.W. Norton & Co 2010

[7] See Eric Ries. The Lean Startup. Crown Business, 2011; See Steve Blank. Four Steps to the Epiphany, 2005

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