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We make right what cannot be

What do we do when we observe something that -in our experience- cannot be true? Do we really make it right in our minds, even if it means we’re kidding ourselves? I would really like to think that I’m not doing that, but probably there is no way of knowing that… right? If we want to consider all the options, even the seemingly impossible ones, we should stop kidding ourselves!

In a previous post “The future has a way of arriving unannounced“, I argue that in order to strive for a situation where we are aware of all the options we have, what I call the options optimum, we should not only search for options, but also allow ourselves to find options we were not looking for. Serendipity. Now, if we really want to be good at that, we should probably not only be good at finding stuff we recognise, but also stuff we think cannot be. Right?

So maybe we should distinguish two types of serendipity (yes, I like structure, can’t help it), defined as:

  • Serendipity of the known: The talent to find stuff we were not looking for, but recognise as something we can use.
  • Serendipity of the unknown: The talent to find stuff we were not looking for, did not recognise and didn’t even know were possible.

Striving to develop these talents can probably make us less biased, better at weak signal detection, and eventually even more creative. The better our receiving capabilities (See post “Optimising my receiving, processing and sending capability“), the better we can make sense of things.

A wonderful example of people unconsciously ignoring observations to make right what cannot be is the following video by Derren Brown.

Person swap, Derren Brown

Serious disclaimer: I’m not pretending to be genious, this whole blog is just one big experiment doomed to fail beautifully! ;)

Optimising my receiving, processing and sending capability

What are the most essential skills, insights, competencies, mindsets, we need to have or get in order to be succesful and happy in life? Some might be obvious, but what are the less obvious ones?
To open up my thinking about this topic, I’ve made a schematic drawing with some elements (or categories) of what I think we need to have: we have to receive information, we have to reflect on that information and process it, and we have to be able to send new information again.
Obviously this is very simplistically put, but an interesting question would be: How can I optimise my receiving capabilities? And why is it important to do this? To have big eyes and ears?


Trainer vs. learner oriented learning

Following up on my previous post “I’m not a participant, I participate!”, let’s look at how we can shift responsibility between the learner and the learning facilitator or trainer. And how far should we go in giving freedom to the learner?

During a training on learning & development design* we discussed the above model developmed by Tannenbaum & Schmidt to describe a scale on which you can measure the amount of freedom vs authority you can have from/give as a manager. Probably, where it says ‘manager’ in the model, you could fill in ‘trainer’, and it can be used for a training setting.

*CIPD training by Don Greenwood

I’m not a participant, I participate!

When designing & delivering training programmes, my biggest challenge is to create a learning culture of shared responsibility for the learning outcomes with the participants. Or maybe I should say ‘facilitate’, rather than ‘create’ a culture like that. Sometimes it’s obvious that some participants are in ‘tourist mode’, just playing along with wathever the trainer is telling them to do, but not really into it. Others might even be in ‘resistance mode’, because they are only at the training because their manager sent them. Luckily most of the time, people are really participating, but -still- it could be more.

Actually, when I talk about ‘participants’, I think I’m already missing the point. Calling somebody that, is already nudging them into lean-back-mode. People should not be participants, but be participating. Opening up parts of a training programme, including the design, preparations and delivery I think facilitates a participative culture.

So, how to do that? Ah, that’s where it gets tricky. I think however, that -as a start- the following rules can be helpful when designing a programme:

 As I said, this doesn’t solve it all, but I think it’s good to keep in the backs of our heads (or maybe rather on the tips of our tounghs). So ask questions, instead of giving answers. 

Q: To all trainers, programme managers, ‘participants’, what do you think about this?

Interaction gear-shift

This idea is really quite simple: When working together on something, it might be worthwile to have keep in mind that the situation sometimes requires talking about the content, and other times about how we interact, or how we are feeling. You could call it the “interaction gear-shift”.

Interaction gear-shift

Just like asking the three basic what, how and why-questions (See “About in dubio“) I think it’s a good idea to shift gear every now and then, and move away from discussing content alone. Sometimes it helps to pause a content discussion by asking questions like “Ok…. how are we doing?”, or “I don’t feel good about this”.

Q: Do you recognise this? Any suggestions for a fourth- and a reverse-gear?

Stop controlling & predicting, be vulnerable

While researching concepts related to trust, like self orientation, reliability and intimacy, I stumbled on a talk by Brene Brown, called “The power of vulnerability”. I made a drawing of the things Brene talks about in her talk, and tried to make sense of it.

For the full talk, see the video below.

Brene Brown, The power of vulnerability (TED talks, 2010)

The dubio-engine II – Accelerate your (self-) awareness!

Dubio-engine feat

As a true doubtaholic, I constantly strive for more awareness of myself, and of others around me. In doing that, I find it helpful to ‘stretch’ my thinking a little bit by asking myself less-usual questions, like “How much am I?” (see post with the same title). After a while it becomes harder and harder to come up with new questions, so I decided to come up with an ‘engine’ to help me generate more, and more extraordinary, questions related to the what, how, and why of what keeps me busy.

In a second attempt (following this one), I came up with the following ‘dubio-engine’:

A dubio-engine

So how does this work? Before you start, build a dubio-engine yourself, following the detailed steps described in the image below (or download “How to make a dubio-engine“) using the files “Dubio engine sheet 1” and “Dubio-engine sheet 2“.

How to make a dubio-engine (click to enlarge)

  1. Once you’ve completed your dubio-engine, select a primary doubt (what, how, why?) by pulling the first strip up or down and choosing your primary question. Would you like to focus your attention on actions or choices (what?), behaviours or methods (how?) or motives or values (why?).
  2. Select a subject (who?). Select the subject of your awareness. Are you focusing on yourself, your team (we), or a specific stakeholder of the organisation that you work in (they). To really ‘unusualise’ your questions, start with ‘unknown’ or ‘nobody’.
  3. Now, select an action, if you can. This is not absolutely necessary as you will be able to come up with actions yourself in a later stage. You can choose to leave this one blank.
  4. Select a secondary doubt Third step is to add a secondary what-, how- or why-question (if you can handle it) to add an extra layer to the questions.
  5. You can continue by repeating step 2 and 3 (strip 5 and 6) for your secondary doubt.
  6. To make it even more challenging, you can choose to include three more variables using the last three strips. This will add a time, place or quantity/quality perspective to the question you will have to come up with.

Now write down the elements you’ve generated and try to construct a question out of it (see instructions-image above for an example). It is absolutely not necessary to include all strips, but try to at least include a primary and secondary doubt. Good luck!

By doing this exercise, and by trying to answer the questions I find, I get to new insights that can help me (start to) become (even) better at what I do.

Q: Dear reader, what do you think of this question-generator?

This post is an improved version of an older post with the same title

The trust-equation

While writing my previous post, I was reminded of something called ‘the trust equation’. The trust-equation is described in the book by Maister, Green and Galford, called ‘The trusted advisor‘. Like the story of Sinek, it discusses the relatedness of trust and reliability, but adds the elements of credibility, intimacy and self-orientation.

I’ve made a drawing of the equation and included some definitions that I thought up myself:

I’m not sure yet what the value of this equation is for me… It feels like something is missing, or that it is too simple. I guess I will have to come back on this one.

Q: Dear reader, do you see any value/things missing in this equation?

The survival of the human race?

Leadership, page 4feat

According to Simon Sinek, the very survival of the human race depends on our ability to surround ourselves with people who believe what we believe. He argues that we tend to trust people who we know share (some of) our values and beliefs more than people that are ‘merely’ reliable. Believe it or not, but when we are surrounded by people who believe what we believe, we are more confident to take risks, to experiment, and to explore, simply because we trust that people with common values and beliefs will watch our backs and help us when needed.

For the full story of Simon Sinek, watch the following video recorded at a TEDx conference last year in Maastricht, The Netherlands.

Simon Sinek on “First why, and then trust”, TEDx Maastricht 2011

To memorise or to familiarise, that’s the question?

Memorising vs. familiarising feat

Is learning the same thing as memorising something? Could it be that we too often think about learning in that way, while there ar also other valuable other ways of learning? Take for instance ‘learning by familiarising’. Isn’t it often enough to just know about the existence of certain information, without having to remember everything about it? Especially if you are living in an environment where a lot of information is readily available, it might be worthwile to -just- familiarise yourself with a lot of it, and memorise only a little.

Ofcourse, learning is not all about memorising information, but I feel it is too much about that. For example, most learning objectives for training programmes are about ‘understanding X’, ‘knowing Y’ and ‘being able to Z’. Fewer are about ‘knowing where to look for X’, ‘knowing who to ask about Y’, or ‘why we do Z’.

I think, being familiar with, and connected to a broad range of concepts, information and meanings makes you more aware. If you are also very good at refering back to the information you are familiar with at the moment you need to have it or know more about it, I think you have an interesting mix of skills. Especially if you know why certain people, information, tools & methods are (or might be) relevant to you or others (connected to purpose).

In summary, I think we should keep on studying the topics and skills we know we need, but expand our learning repertoire more to familiarise ourselves with people, information and methods we might need later.

Q: Do you agree that, while learning, we should focus more on connecting people, information, tools & methods and purposes?

For more information on this distinction, see “Memorization vs. familiarization vs referenced learning, by Elliott Masie


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