Actionable Ideas #9: Moral Foundations Theory, RAIN, Divergent/Convergent Thinking

In these actionable ideas articles, I highlight three ideas that you can convert into immediate action to drive meaningful value in your work and life.


In this issue, we talk about how appealing to peoples morals rather than logic may be more effective, how to use RAIN for effective self-management, and how to approach problem solving with divergent and convergent thinking.

Idea #1: Moral Foundations Theory

Themes: conversation, argument, persuasion

The moral foundations theory states the people have stable, gut-level morals that influence their worldview. People are often dismissive or avoidant of facts that are hostile to these core beliefs, which is unfortunately why logic and critical thinking are often not enough to have meaningful conversations. A study found that when arguments were framed around core values like equality and fairness, even the staunchest political opponents tended to agree with each other. According to the theory, differences in people's moral concerns can be described in terms of five moral foundations: care, fairness, loyalty, authority, and sanctity.

Action item: the next time you feel like you are going in circles arguing with someone using logic, think about what core moral foundations you might actually be disagreeing on and how you might appeal to them. Take the initiative to find out what resonates with the other.


Idea #2: RAIN

Themes: mindfulness, self-management

Feeling Challenged? Let it R.A.I.N!

RAIN is a mindfulness/self-management technique for grounding and creating space for yourself. RAIN stands for Recognize, Accept, Investigate, and Non-identification: when facing an overwhelming situation, go through these steps. Recognize what is happening, accept what is happening as reality, investigate as to why you might be responding the way you are, and finally understand that you are not your thoughts with non-identification. By strategically walking through these steps, you can access system 2 thinking and respond consciously and intentionally by slowing down.

Action item: next time you face a stressful situation, whether it be a meeting or at home, walk through the RAIN steps mentally. Over time, this should start to become second nature.


Idea #3: Divergent/Convergent Thinking

Themes: problem solving, creativity

Divergent and convergent thinking are two ways of thinking that go hand in hand – also known as exploration and refinement. The two are necessary to pair together to arrive at the best possible solution: you need to explore for breadth, and converge for execution. Considering is diverging, choosing is converging. This model of thinking is also used extensively in the discover/define double diamond design process model.

Action item: think about a problem you need to solve – explore broadly first to assess all options, then refine and converge on a solution. Start applying these two methods of thinking as an inseparable pairing.