“You can’t know what you don’t know. You can’t know about things you have yet to discover.” – Jonathan Raymond.

Catalyzing people involves the ability to have others discover something for themselves such that they can truly understand and therefore own what they have learned.

This requires questioning and inquiry which leads to discovery. And when we discover something for ourselves it is then truly ours. We know when we have moments like that, those moments when everything suddenly makes sense. The fog clears and we are staring at a solution with sudden and complete clarity. When Archimedes had his realization during his famous trip to the public baths, he is recorded shouting “Eureka.” Eureka translates as “I have found it.” In those moments of discovery, something new becomes possible.

In a recent client engagement, two departments in an organization were beginning to operate inside of dysfunction, a dysfunction which they had unwittingly created themselves. They began by acknowledging some of the dysfunction specifically, followed by learning ways to improve things or even eradicate the dysfunction. The models of communication that could be used to solve much of this made perfect sense and were understandable to participants. It was only in the following working session after the participants had been in action and had the conversations that were required did they discover what it was the models were pointing to. What is always striking in a follow-up to action is seeing how the participants have depth in describing their experience. In sharing their takeaways it seems like they could speak about their discoveries forever. That is when you know someone has “found it.”

In our client consulting work we attempt, not to train or to teach, but rather facilitate the conversations that can lead others to discover something new.  You did not learn to cycle a bicycle by reading a book describing how to balance. You got on the bike and discovered balance. You probably fell a few times before you discovered it too. It is more comfortable to learn, or at least think we are learning, by reading books. Learning by experience and discovery however is the truest form of learning and when done in this way, memory is not needed, you have it forever and it’s yours to own.

“By three methods we may learn wisdom:

First, by reflection, which is noblest;

Second, by imitation, which is easiest;

and third, by experience, which is the bitterest.”

— Confucius —


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