Tag Archives: interdependent thinking

Inquiry Combined With Deep Listening

conversation_002Exploring with others through sincere and effective inquiry combined with deep listening for understanding are great tools to develop for working well with others. Often small or large groups of people are faced with working through what seem like insurmountable challenges.

How we ‘show up’ matters: It is worth considering that reframing the situation into many possibilities and opportunities rather than insurmountable challenges is a potentially more proactive platform to be working from.

I do believe that we are in charge of our own perspectives and that any group of people is in charge of their own perspectives. And that our perspectives influence how we navigate opportunity or, as some may see it – insurmountable challenges.

Further, I believe that the questions we ask can be powerful in setting a ‘frame’ for our thinking and actions. Great questions are valuable for the person who asks them – if that person is ready to listen deeply and consider what is shared. Great questions are valuable to those who take them seriously by pondering and responding to them.

Michael J. Marquardt puts it this way: “Great questions cause the questioner to become more aware of the need for change and to be more open and willing to change. The questions themselves may actually cause the leader to become a change catalyst. The leader who leads with questions will more likely champion new ideas heard and developed in the course of inquiry. New ideas and perspectives enable the leader to make strong arguments for advocating change.” Leading with Questions: How Leaders Find the Right Solutions by Knowing What to Ask, Revised and Updated, 2014, pages 42-43.

Marquardt also states that: “A questioning culture strengthens individual and organizational learning; it improves decision making, problem solving, and teamwork; promotes adaptability and acceptance of change; and helps empower people by strengthening self-awareness and self-confidence.” page 6

These are the kinds of questions that may have the power to help a leader or participant of a group to deepen and improve the culture and quality of thinking and work:

If you were to overhear an honest conversation about this intuitive 30 months from now – what would your highest hopes be for what you would hear? What do you believe you would actually hear, given the current trajectory of the project?

How would describe the way you want this project to turn out?

What resources might we tap into that we haven’t used before or not using currently?

What crucial or vital behaviors can we target that seem to provide the greatest leverage for dramatically advance our goal?

How can this team become more efficient and productive while also supporting its members in the pursuit?

What inspires us about this work?

What happens if . . .?

Have we ever thought of . . .? (This question and the two directly preceding it – may be good ones to go around the group and have everyone add in their ‘. . .’ and then go around again and possibly again to generate new and potentially provocative thinking)

For any of these or other such questions to have value a culture of open shared thinking must be supported and the questions must be asked with sincerity and listened to with a commitment to strive to understand and appreciate the perspective(s) being shared.

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How might we make possible what might have seemed unthinkable?

What will bring us together?
How can we – with others, especially others that look at things very differently – develop a shared preferred future?
What keeps us from working across differences toward the common good?
What happens when we do nothing at all to attempt to impact the status qou, even when we believe that the status quo is not serving the common good?
What stops us from embracing our dissimilarities and our similarities while tackling the challenges that are important to all of us as we move toward a shared preferred future?
How can we hear all voices and listen for and appreciate what is unique about the points of view of others?
How can we build trust and rapport across differences?
How can we get better at seeking to understand others and exploring possibilities where none existed before – rather than to win over others?
Note*
In his book: David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants (2013) Malcom Gladwell explains that his major purposes for writing this book are connected what can happen when ordinary people (read you and me) confront giants. He sees two basic ways to frame these encounters with giants we all experience.
“The first is that much of what we consider valuable in our world arises out of these kinds of lopsided conflicts, because the act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty. And second, that we consistently get these kinds of conflicts wrong. We misread them. We misinterpret them. Giants are not what we think they are. The same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness. And the fact of being an underdog can change people in ways that we often fail to appreciate: it can open doors and create opportunities and educate and enlighten and make possible what might otherwise have seemed unthinkable.” (page 6)
Might the challenge of facing this ‘lopsided conflict’ the questions that opened this post focus on – be our “giants”? Might we embracing these questions and working through them be about ‘facing overwhelming odds’? And if so, might we ‘produce greatness’?
Might the confronting the shared work around the questions that opened this post uncover that the giants confronted are weaker than we thought? Might moving forward on the engagement and sorting out which will follow from the sincere connection to these questions potentially ‘open doors and create opportunities and educate and enlighten and make possible what might otherwise have seemed unthinkable?’

Conversation_001
*Some of these questions were influenced by Michael J. Marquardt’s work: Leading With Questions: How Leaders Find Right Solutions by Knowing What to Ask Revised and Updated (2014)

For Learning to Occur Neither the Organization or Its People can be Stationary

people_and_Organization_boarderIf you want your organization or your group within an organization to grow, change and develop – it is a good idea to help build a culture of learning.  Adaptation requires learning.

The people in the organization need to be willing to learn, grow and develop and, the organization must support their learning.

“Learning” is not a ‘straight line’ activity for individuals or the organization. To move ‘off’ the status quo and into new patterns of behavior and culture is adaptive.  We grow our strengths and develop a new normal.

Actually, this kind of adaptation and forward movement is not only for organizations.  Our families and social groups will also benefit from developing cultures of learning and adaptation.

Yes! To be willing to adapt and learn requires an experimental mindset.  We have to be willing to try things to see if they work and be willing to let go of things that don’t work and further develop things that show progress.  We, in our work and in our families, will benefit from embracing an experimental mindset.

Heifetz, Grashow and Linsky define experimental mind-set as “an attitude that treats any approach to an adaptive issue not as a solution, but as the beginning of an iterative process of testing a hypothesis, observing what happens, learning, making midcourse corrections, and then, if necessary, trying something else.”

“It is not surprising that in organizations with significant adaptive capacity, there is an openness and commitment to learning

Adaptive challenges cannot be solved by taking a course, hiring a consulting firm, or copying other companies’ best practices. Instead, people throughout the organization must open themselves to experimentation, giving up some old truths that have become irrelevant with changes in business, social or political landscape.

What does a continuous-learning mind-set look like in action within an organization?  Here are some signs:

People who make mistakes or experiment with new ways of doing things are not marginalized.

When something bad happens (a client is lost, a bid is rejected), the news is acknowledged and the event is debriefed for its lessons, not treated as a cause for punishment.

Communications and interaction are nurtured across all formal and informal boundaries.

People view the latest strategic plan as today’s best guess rather than a sacred text.”

Today’s challenges require more than a technical response.  We must be willing to adapt, learn and discover our future.  Further, we must be ready to go on this journey with others.

 Tomorrow is an opportunity

Tomorrow belongs to those that can create an adaptive culture

Tomorrow’s promise is complex and welcomes learners striving to thrive

People and organizations that learn will realize tomorrow’s opportunities

Pages 105-107 of The Practice of Adaptive Leadership by Heifetz, Grashow and Linsky 2009  and the definition of experimental mind-set from page 304

Learn About Others by Gently Probing

Relationships grow when people learn about and appreciate each other. I believe that many of us can benefit from being very intentional about reaching out and getting to know each other in our work places, communities and even families.

Edgar H. Schein in his new book: Humble Inquiry: the Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling (2013) writes, “Why is it so important to learn to ask better questions that help to build positive relationships? Because in an increasingly complex, interdependent, and culturally diverse world, we cannot hope to understand and work with people from different occupational, professional, and national cultures if we do not know how to ask questions and build relationships that are based on mutual respect and the recognition that others know things that we may need to know in order to get a job done.”

Schein states that not all questions are equivalent.  He has come to believe that we need to learn a particular form of questioning that he first called “Humble Inquiry” in Edgar H. Schein’s earlier book, Helping (2009) and Humble Inquiry   he defines as follows:

Humble Inquiry is the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not already know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.”

Listening to understand and appreciate.  That makes sense to me.  I don’t think it is an easy thing to get good at and I also think it is worth getting good at!  I believe that we and generations to come will benefit from co-creation of ideas, plans, solutions, and futures.

Schein’s book, Humble Inquiry may help people to gain awareness and dispositions related to gentle and thoughtful probing as we getting to know those around us.

Here are links to other posts I have written related to getting better as listeners and developing communities and thoughtful conversation:

Listening>turn taking

Food for thought related to the potential power of listening

A Community of Thought

Engaging in Conversations where Transformation has the Potential of Occurring

It is worth our effort to begin this journey toward developing our social brain

From my point of view, the challenge of being intentional about connecting – mind-to-mind is worth accepting – because the stakes are so very high.  I believe that we live in times where interdependent thinking holds real value for all mankind.

People engaging in conversations where transformation has the potential of occurring are people who can help form adaptive interactions.  Adaptive responses to the status quo can help create futures focused on the common good.  Yes, I use the word “can” because there is no assurance that common good will be the shared focus.

Ron Heifetz, Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linsky in their book: The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World (2009) write about adaptive leadership.  Their definition: Adaptive leadership is the practice of mobilizing people to tackle tough challenges and thrive (page 14) sounds like the kind of leadership many of us might want to experience.  Tackling tough challenges and thriving is the direction to the future that I want to put my energy into. For me that sounds like the ‘common good’.

These conversations need to be more intentional than casual.  Laura Lipton and Bruce Wellman in their chapter Creating Communities of Thought: Skills, Tasks, and Practices from The Power of the Social Brain edited by Arthur Costa and Pat Wilson O’Leary (2013) write: “When, how and with whom we participate shapes the possibilities of our lives.  Participation fuses with purpose when catalytic questions energize the cognitive reaction.

Purpose, process, and reflection are the essential components of provocative and thoughtful inquiry.  The challenge of the questions that we ask ourselves, and now we ask those questions, make the difference between committees and communities.

Laura Lipton and Bruce Wellman offer the following formulation:  Purpose + Participation + Catalytic Questions = A Sustainable Community of Thought

purpose_ParticipationThe ‘with whom’ part of the above quote is crucial to think deeply about.  I suggest that we need to get very good at engaging with people across differences.

The ‘how and when’ part of the above quote is not to be taken lightly either.  These two components are fundamental to reaching the potential that is possible when people think together across differences. Working toward reaching a solid consensus is a worthy goal as is being sure to tackle tough problems when there are engaged people ‘in the room’ who look at the issue or topic from varied perspectives and are willing to work together to attempt to find a consensus agreement.

Thinking together in complex times requires being willing to develop our skills, abilities, and dispositions. We have knowledge to gain.  We have capabilities to develop.  Connecting mind-to-mind is worth the effort.  Thinking well across differences is essential in these challenging times.  It is worth our effort to begin this journey toward developing our social brain.

Thinking Together, Working Together and Playing Together

CBS News presents a story that makes a strong case for thinking together, working together and playing together as very good things.  This is a story of Michigan middle school that plan and implemented actions that made a difference for a fellow student and potentially helped many others to see the value of their motives actions. These middle school students figured out a way to think and behave around the concept of inclusion, team, family, group, community etc. that may stay with them for a life time.

This is a story of the Olivet Eagles football team from Olivet Middle School in lower mid-Michigan. This is a story of young people working in concert to peruse their vision of the common good.  This Middle School Football Team Went Behind Their Coaches’ Backs To Do Something Incredible. Click below to see the story.

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18563_162-57609427/

For weeks, the football players at Olivet Middle School in Olivet, Mich., secretly planned a remarkable play.

Individuals can and do (at times) become walled silos of thought

Below are words I wrote as part of the Foreword for The Power of the Social Brain by Arthur Costa and Pat Wilson O’Leary.  I share these thoughts to encourage others to develop themselves as people capable of interdependent thinking.

There are many hurdles for those engaged in intentionally improving as an interdependent thinker. Individuals intent on independence, faced with the fact that others think differently about a given problem, often engage in aggressive or avoidant techniques. These techniques vary and can include holding onto past thinking, refusing to interact with other thinkers, labeling other thinkers as the enemy, and jumping to conclusions. The stability of a person’s status-quo thinking is often very attractive. It can be challenging to move into the instability and tentativeness of shared thinking. Patterson et al. (2008) explain that unpleasant endeavors “require a motivation that can come only from within. People stimulate this internal motivation by investing themselves in an activity. That is, they make the activity an issue of personal significance. They set high standards of who they’ll be, high enough to create a worthy challenge, and then they work hard to become that very person” (p. 93). Being internally motivated to grow and develop as a person who thinks well with others is a value for the person and for the common good.

Some individuals and like-minded groups of individuals can and do become walled silos of thought. Often adults in one specialty or with one point of view are certain that individuals who hold different worldviews won’t be willing to connect openly and think together without tensions erupting or without having the discussants fall back into unproductive “winner” and “loser” arguments.

Many others make no attempt even to politely associate with those who think differently.  Those committed to having their thoughts become the winning thoughts harbor hostility toward those who think differently. The other extreme is to be polite and settle for superficial interactions.

The promise of people thinking interdependently through contentious problem-solving situations is that such efforts ultimately can achieve significant positive outcomes for society and/or the individual. When we engage in interdependent thinking, we can all influence and be part of positive change. We all will not get our way or be the “argument winner.”

But if we invest in the concepts of thinking together with an open mind, a willingness to understand how others think and feel, and a desire to reflect and rethink throughout the process of coming to an actionable decision, we can accomplish much together.

Promise_of_thinking_inter