How did Refractive Thinking Begin?

Having taught critical thinking in the collegiate academic classroom for nearly 10 years, I found myself as an instructor feeling that somehow our critical thinking discussion was incomplete and inadequate—as if something were missing.  There was always this nagging question in the back of my mind that wanted to know if there was something more.  What I am trying to get away from is the invariable discussion of the dichotomy of either/or, black or white, either ‘your way’ or ‘my way’ type of limited thinking.  My students seem to embrace the zero sum gain of I can only win if you lose type of mentality.  Society seems to be conditioned to think there are only two extremes where thinking is either inside the box and everything else or critical thinking is outside the box.  Somehow as a society, we are uncomfortable without having labels or descriptors, if only for a short time and boy do we love that proverbial box.

Story time. To answer that nagging voice in the back of my mind, to discover what was missing, I offer the following short story for explanation.

Years ago, I attended a seminar of about 15 people with two facilitators where we had 10 days to brainstorm and address specific issues the company we all worked for at the time were experiencing.  The first 3 days were agonizing for me.  In the corporate setting, I would try very hard to keep the professor part of my personality from sharing too much of the spotlight.  However by the third day of this group trying to put 10 lbs into a 5 lb box, I had simply hit my limit and the professor in me began to slowly emerge.

I asked for a few minutes of ‘air time’ from the facilitators and made my plea to the group to stop going down this road.  I offered them a different perspective instead.  I gave them permission to think beyond the box, beyond limits, beyond boundaries.  What happened next was nothing short of amazing.  Wow—if you could have been in the room at the time, as the shift that took place was amazing, how the energy simply shifted at that one very moment in time.  This is where the refractive thinker found its humble beginnings—completely unbeknownst to me at the time.

Once I took the rules and perceived boundaries away, and gave my fellow attendees permission to allow the situation to dictates its form, instead of the reverse where form was dictating its solution, the energy in the room changed instantaneously.  I simply gave us all permission to let go and to let our creativity and thinking lead us to follow its own path.

Until next time. . . happy thinking.

Dr. Cheryl Lentz
Chief Refractive Thinker

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