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The Challenge of Divergent Thinking

This week, the group tackled the subject of convergent thinking and divergent thinking. Divergent thinking seeks multiple perspectives and multiple possible answers to questions or problems. Convergent thinking assumes that a question or problem has one right answer or solution.

At first glance, it seems divergent thinking would be used in new situations, because it’s difficult to re-examine something familiar to arrive at a new perspective. Convergent thinking can be problematic when someone believes they have discovered the right way to look at a situation and refuses to entertain other opinions. People want to be confident and 100% certainty gives a certain comfort, but confidence does not require total certainty.

Digging in your heals is not a show of confidence. Confidence is marked by resiliency and being open to shades of uncertainty. However, if something already works for you, it’s harder to see the point in developing a new approach.

The ability to come up with new solutions is culturally considered a positive, but divergent thinking is not easy. It requires constantly searching for new information and being open to being wrong. If we can take a step back from what we’ve always thought until a dialogue is fleshed out, it can lead to the solution of a problem.

There are, however, things that have a right answer, and there are practical limits to questioning everything. Problems could be presented by a society of people filled with self-doubt and when there is risk to physical safety, people are more likely to stick to the status quo.

The ability to think divergently is already within all of us, but it’s complex and requires us to be curious and have imagination. If we step out of a comfort zone, we can discover what is meaningful and important in life.

The peer support approach works because the most valuable gift someone can give is to listen to somebody else. By leading with love and making ourselves present, we put our own point aside long enough to discover the value of relationships.

Cynthia Price, Ryan Christman and Mary Bourgeois participated in the RealitySeeker meeting and contributed to this article.

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