Wednesday, January 25, 2017

How to grow through conversation

When was the last time you sat down for a really great conversation with someone you didn't know well?

We know that conversations help people find the ideas that lead to innovation. There are examples in every field of people coming together to talk about ideas and information and then going away to make change happen. While you might spend lots of time locked away alone to develop an idea, ideas are generated in connections and conversations.

Here are three things I think are critical if you want to have the kind of conversations that grow new and useful ideas:

  1. Listen more than you talk. The value is not in hearing your own ideas, but in allowing ideas to form as you connect with new ideas and new people. 
  2. Engage difference. This means finding people you can't predict because you don't already know what and how they think. 
  3. Follow your curiosity. Most people want to get to the point too quickly: if you want to have new thoughts, you won't recognize the "point" until later. Your curiosity is your best guide to generating something through conversation that you wouldn't find sitting alone at your computer.
I love good conversation and I love that my work includes developing events and structures which allow good conversations to happen. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

A picture can remind you who you want to be

This is a picture of Long Beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It reminds me of who I want to be when I am tired or stressed or muddled. As I look at it, I begin to feel the sand under my shoes (it's too cold for bare feet) and hear the waves and to breath with the movement of the water and the mist. When I want my thinking to be cool and clear and full of movement, this picture reminds me that I know how to think that way.

It's easy to connect what we see to what we feel because that's how we experience vision. We look at something outside us and the feeling lands in our bones and our breath. If I looked at a picture of me on the beach, I would see the self on the beach as different than the self looking at the picture. When I was on the beach, I wasn't seeing me so seeing me doesn't take me back into the moment as clearly as this picture does. This is what I was seeing when my breath was deep and my stride was comfortable and curious.

The same thing is true of the pictures we draw with our words. We are seldom able to move into a memory by describing ourselves in the way a picture describes us. Instead, we move back into an experience by describing what we were noticing when it happened. Our attention leads us back into the perceptions and feelings of that earlier self. When we you want to recapture an experience from your past, describe it to yourself the way you lived it, not the way you labelled yourself later.

When you need clarity, don't tell yourself to be clear. Tell yourself the story of the time you walked on a cool, windy beach, curious about the way the mist moved to the water.

Monday, January 09, 2017

January: Fresh Start or Tired, Cold and Grumpy?

Sometimes you wake from a deep sleep and for a moment, you don't know where or when you are. If you woke up that way today, what clues in your thoughts and perceptions would let you know that it is January?

As much as we talk as if the holidays leave us energized and eager for the new year, I suspect that's not what most of us experience. I suspect that many of us wake from the holidays feeling a little tired, a little scattered, and ready to be more persistent than inspired. We've probably been through some emotional ups and downs and if we live in Canada (where I'm writing this), it's cold outside and we go to work and return from work in the dark. Even if you love winter sports, winter work is a bit of a hard sell.

If you want fresh energy for a new year, you'll have to work for it. We worked for it this weekend when we sat at the tables above to explore how to learn and adapt. Here are some of the things that made it easier to generate fresh thoughts for this fresh new year:

  • a structured process for thinking (that's what is contained in those handouts)
  • a connection to other people who are ready to work for a fresh start (all those chairs)
  • windows for observing what is real without being defined by it.
Our training room looks across traffic to a park. We always know what the weather is doing and we know how much natural light is available to lift our spirits. The windows ground us in what is real and assure us that what goes on in the room is also real. By acknowledging January, we are able to shift what it means: it's not cold and dark in our room. There's lots of movement and companionship and optimism inside and it's as real as the weather.

But no one landed in our room by accident. We have to choose fresh ideas and fresh energy. They don't come with the calendar.