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What The Seeker Ultimately Discovers

May 6, 2009

by Tim


Truth doesn’t converge — it divergesrodin_the_thinker.jpg

I’m working on a doctoral thesis. This involves lots of thinking and reading, reading and thinking.

Early on I discovered that my thinking skills needed an upgrade. So I started reading books by Edward de Bono, whose specialty is teaching people how to think more clearly and creatively.

De Bono distinguishes between convergent thinking, divergent thinking, and lateral thinking.

Convergent thinking involves trying to narrow a range of options down to a single solution, or a certainty, based on sets of facts or circumstances. De Bono says most university thinking, like my doctoral work, is of the convergent variety.

In contrast, divergent thinking focuses on imagining possibilities rather than certainties. De Bono claims that divergent thinking accounts for the remarkable technological and economic rise of Western civilizations over the past 500 years (five centuries ago China and India combined accounted for more than half of all worldwide economic activity).

rodin_facing_right.jpgLateral thinking, a term de Bono coined, can be either divergent or convergent. It involves changing perception’s starting point rather dealing with the logical processes that follow perception.

De Bono’s work makes a lot of sense. The deeper I dive into my topic (international business model portability), the more I recognize how perception colors everything, rendering so-called “truth” elusive. Because the study of business is a social science rather than a hard science, even attributing causality becomes a problem. So I’ve given up trying to prove that A causes B. Instead I’m focusing on demonstrating that C is useful in the case of D.

In fact, the more I study, the more certain I am that there is no such thing as ultimate truth.

It seems that when you reach the end of all your seeking, you basically find that you know — nothing. And you discover that the smartest people claim the least knowledge.

I finally understand what Bob Dylan meant when he sang that “there are no truths outside the Gates of Eden.” He grasped in his early 20s what many take a lifetime to learn, and what some will never know. As bob_dylan.jpgJacob Bronowski wrote:

There is no absolute knowledge, and those who claim it, whether they are scientists or dogmatists, open the door to tragedy.

Here’s the soul-soothing reality: Truth doesn’t converge — it diverges.

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4 Comments to What The Seeker Ultimately Discovers

On May 8, 2009, Stephen commented:

This one really struck a chord with me . . . not quite sure why. I immediately forwarded it to a friend who is struggling with balance and perspective at the moment.

Keep up the inspired writing!

Your nuggets of wisdom are like pick-me-ups.

Sometimes they completely re-energize me.

On May 8, 2009, by Tim commented:

Stephen, your comment completely reenergized me. Thanks for reading, and writing! :-)

On May 9, 2009, Greg commented:

The thought we have better ways of thinking and approaching “the truth” is energizing. I did a small amount of library digging, but so far I haven’t found much academic work substantiating the effectiveness of De Bono’s approaches.

On May 11, 2009, by Tim commented:

My understanding is that there is little robust academic research supporting the effectiveness of his methods, and that he is therefore controversial in academic circles.

But his books and methods are used by millions of businesspeople and educators around the world, so to me that says far more about the worth of his ideas than do academic studies. As de Bono himself says, the marketplace is the final arbiter of value.

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