The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

A world-class business education in a single volume. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then use these ideas to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in your life and work.

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What Is 'Convergence and Divergence'?

Convergence is the tendency of group members to become more alike over time. This is what's known in business terms as "company's culture." Divergence is the tendency of group members to become less like other group members over time.

Convergence is useful if you consciously choose to spend time with people you'd like to become more like. At the same time, breaking away from groups that aren't serving you is painful but necessary to grow.

Josh Kaufman Explains 'Convergence and Divergence'

Over time, you become more and more like whom you spend time with, and less like people in other groups.

Convergence is the tendency of group members to become more alike over time. In business, this is sometimes called a company “culture,” in the sense that people who work there tend to have similar characteristics, behaviors, and philosophies.

Convergence also means that groups have a tendency to police themselves. The norms of the group work like gravity—violate them, and others will exert an influence on the rebel to bring them back in line. As the proverb goes: “The tallest blade of grass is the first to be cut.”

If you’ve ever worked for a company with a workaholic culture, you know how powerful Convergence can be. If it’s normal for workers to come in at 6:00 in the morning and stay until 10:30 at night, it can be difficult to keep normal working hours, since violating the norms is a Social Signal that you don’t belong in the group.

One of my clients, who works for a major medical research institution while starting a business on the side, often has conflicts with coworkers who believe he’s not “pulling his weight” because he leaves work at 5:00pm instead of 7:30pm, even though he does great work and gets everything done. Instead of being viewed as “working smart,” going home at a reasonable hour is seen as a form of treason. Sad, but common.

Divergence is the tendency for groups to become less like other groups over time. Since group behavior often evolves to clearly distinguish members of one group from another, the norms of most groups constantly change to resist being confused with another group or imitator.

Divergence explains why fashions among the socialite class in New York City change so quickly and dramatically. In certain social circles, dress is a way to signal your wealth or status. When the latest fashions start appearing in Target so people can imitate the look, fashions change to compensate. This constant divergence keeps the group affiliation signal valid.

The groups you spend time with automatically and profoundly influence your behavior. According to the late Jim Rohn, author of The Art of Exceptional Living, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” The values and behaviors of the people you interact with on a daily basis exert constant pressures on you to adopt the same values and behaviors.

Convergence can be useful if you consciously choose to spend time with people you’d like to become more like over time. If you’d like to become less shy and more outgoing, spending time with social people in social situations can’t help but influence your behavior. You won’t become a social butterfly overnight, but you will naturally start to adopt the behaviors and norms of the people you’re spending time with.

This approach works for anything—if you want to test a raw food diet for a while, spend more time hanging out with people who eat that way. Used consciously, convergence can work in your favor to make habit change easier.

Breaking away from groups that aren’t serving you is painful but necessary to grow. People who want to quit smoking or drinking often find it extremely difficult to quit because a large portion of their social network engages in those behaviors. Taking a smoke break at 3:00pm or attending at 6:00pm happy hour is a very significant social event—if your friends are expecting you, the temptation is hard to resist.

To make significant changes, it’s often necessary to leave one group and find another that’s more supportive of where you want to go, which is why joining support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous is a very effective way to change specific behaviors.

Once you realize how powerful convergence and divergence are, you can use them to your advantage. If your social circle isn’t supporting your goals, change your social circle.

Questions About 'Convergence and Divergence'


"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

Friedrich Nietzsche

From Chapter 8:

Working With Others


http://personalmba.com/convergence-divergence/



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The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

A world-class business education in a single volume. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then use these ideas to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in your life and work.

Buy the book:


About Josh Kaufman

Josh Kaufman is an acclaimed business, learning, and skill acquisition expert. He is the author of two international bestsellers: The Personal MBA and The First 20 Hours. Josh's research and writing have helped millions of people worldwide learn the fundamentals of modern business.

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