convergent and divergent thinking in mediation

This is not a reference to the Divergent series of books and movies but, if it were up to me, I think ‘Convergent and Divergent’ would be a great name for another installment in that storyline! I say this because Veronica Roth, author of the popular book series, really developed a great story line bases on an important concept regarding the way people think and how it affects the social dynamic.

Convergent and Divergent thinking were coined by the psychologist J.P. Guilford in 1956. Convergent thinking typically describes those who focus on coming up with a single, well-established and correct answer to a problem. Divergent thinking is more of a free-flowing, creative process where many ideas are considered as possible solutions.  Convergent, at its best, is a very logical, linear process that uses known facts to determine THE correct solution. Divergent thinking, at its best, is very spontaneous where many ideas are created and evaluated for their viability and sustainability as A potential solution.

These are two very different approaches to problem solving and may sound like a recipe for impasse in mediation or negotiation. I would suggest that when both approaches avail in mediation, there may be a higher probability of reaching settlement.

Once understanding the dispute, starting with a creative, ideation process (divergent) is paramount. Creating a variety of options and finding new possible solutions will open communication and collaboration. The very nature of this process starts from A wide variance of options and will begin to whittle down to a smaller group of realistic ideas until finding THE correct solution (convergent).

If you haven’t seen the Divergent movies, they are worth watching. They probably won’t give you tremendous insight to prepare for a mediation but they certainly demonstrate the differences in approaching a problem. And, sometimes, it’s time to just enjoy a good movie!


About the Author

Laura OuinLaura Ouin is a dedicated Business Communication Development Professional and Mediator who is infinitely passionate about serving people. Currently based in Dallas, Texas, she is the Principal, Mediator, and Business Development Consultant of Third Coast Mediation. To date, she has garnered nearly 20 years of direct experience in the business development, mediation, technology, and marketing specialty areas.

Convergent and Divergent Thinking
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