The British economist E> F. Schumachker, best known for writing Small is Beautiful, argued (in his book A Guide For the Perplexed) that there are two fundamentally different types of problems: "convergent problems" and "divergent problems." Convergent problems have a solution: "the more intelligently you study them, the more the answers converge." Divergent problems have no "correct" solution. The more they are studied by people with knowledge and intelligence the more they "come up with answers which contradict one another." The difficulty lies not with the experts, but with the nature of the problem itself. If you are in Boston and want to travel by car to Albany, there is a right answer to the question, "What is the fastest route to Albany?" But there is no right answer to the question, "Why do you want to go to Albany?" Schumacher's favorite example of a classic divergent problem is: "How do you most effectively educate children?" Different people of integrity and intellect will, inevitably, come to very different conclusions. It is important to realize that divergent problems are not convergent problems that have not yet been solved. Rather, they are problems for which there is no single, best solution.

source: Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline p 283-4 tags: Problems, Solutions