If you think about these last few posts, you probably already know the answer to this question. We need divergent questions to break out of a rut, to open up the consideration of new solutions.
Recall the counter situation: You have a system, or you have a solution, and you are happy with it. You know your current approach works; you just don’t know why one particular part is not functioning the way it was a week ago. Most likely, you want to focus, to zero in on the location of the problem, look at anything that is directly relevant to the problem, find the most likely cause, eliminate other likely possibilities, and solve the problem.
In this situation, you use convergent questions:
• Where and when is the problem occurring?
• Where and when is it NOT occurring?
• What are the possible causes?
• What possible causes can you eliminate?
• …and a few more questions that narrow down to the solution.
You use these convergent questions because you like your system, and you’re not seeking to change it; you just want to find the problem and fix it. An example might be the IT help line, and the technician who is paid to identify (and fix) the problem that is keeping a user from being able to do exactly what the system was created to do.
Let’s suppose, though, that the problem you have been hired to solve is that the current approach is not getting results. The system is working the way it is supposed to work, but the end result isn’t there. For example: everything in your racing car works, but you’re not winning races.
This is a different kind of problem, and looking for broken pieces isn’t going to solve it.
Instead, you’re going to have to revisit the results you want. Instead of focusing on the system you put into place, you will probably need to look at the problem again. And that’s why you need divergent questions: you need to look at the situation more broadly, or from a different perspective.
So if everything in the car is working, what might be some reasons we are not winning races?
This line of thinking is pushing us toward the last question about questioning – the subject of the next post: When, in a group session, might be a good time to use a divergent question?