Debra’s Philosophy

Debra’s Philosophy

To say I’ve drunk the kool-aid of what ThinkSpot offers, would be an understatement.  After eight years of bringing to life this concept –  how quickly can teams align on the same page so that they can work at solving opportunities and challenges together – some would say it’s rather ludicrous (more like stubborn) to keep going.

Yet in 2009 after completion of an MBA the idea began to percolate that perhaps there would be value in creating a place where people could bring their creative and analytical skills together with work colleagues, in order to quickly and seamlessly begin tackling opportunities and challenges.  

I thought that would be easy.  In actual fact… far from it.  Some people were “well I could go to the nearest hotel – why would I need to come to you?”; most people shrugged and thought “whatever floats your boat”; and a very few (OK… one person) said “this is so important and we have no idea how to quantify its importance”.

Research and focus has been directed over the past decade in trying to understand human behaviour – hence the boom in Artificial Intelligence(AI)…  How predictable am I in the buying decisions that I make?  It’s an elixir for organizations.

My preference is to value Behavioural Intelligence (awareness of how I choose to think and engage) AND Emotional Intelligence (choices I make on how to emotionally process comments and feedback from/with others – both verbal or non-verbal).    This predictable behavioural and emotional engagement between team members is what allows trust to build.  In other words, can I be counted on to do what I do well – so that when I am chosen for my skill set on a team – people know and can trust on what to expect from me?  If I have predictable triggers – i.e. struggle with being judged – then to put me with a team that judges in seconds means I had better know how to work with those triggers.

Why is this important?  In 2012 Google decided to focus on understanding what makes teams great.  To their surprise (after three years and millions of dollars later) – it wasn’t rocket science.  In fact, Google understands that any great manager already knows this – yet Google’s Project Aristotle has now put the science behind it. As Google is driven by engineers, scientists, and people who deeply respect data – their quantifiable research is valuable.

What did they learn?  For the most part, you and I will risk and share our ideas and learnings, both expected and unexpected outcomes (aka failures), when we feel “psychologically safe,” when we have the equal opportunity to speak, and when we feel deeply listened to.  Google calls it “Ostentatious Listening” and “Conversational Turn-Taking” and builds on the Psychological Safety work of Amy Edmundson of Harvard.  For me this is about being “seen, heard, and understood”.

So again…why is this important?  Bill George, Senior Fellow at Harvard who teaches Management Practice, shared in the documentary “InnSaei” “at the highest level all decisions are intuitive… if they weren’t we could run them off on computers.”  In relationships (personal and professional) we all are trying to understand what others are feeling or thinking.  A great Customer Service Representative; Financial Advisor; or C-Suite Executive understands the importance of building empathy and relationship with clients, suppliers, colleagues.  The challenge is trying to understand what is not being said.  In the book Team of Teams by General Stanley McChrystal, U.S. Army Retired… “in many instances individuals and teams didn’t have time to analyze every part of a decision… often they had to listen to and observe each other”.

How this intuitive, unconscious knowing happens is what makes things tricky – and organizations rightly are afraid to let this flow.  Malcolm Gladwell talks about intuition in Blink – where for the most part decisions we make from a gut feel can often be based on an inherent bias as we only know what we can see or have seen.  Daniel Shapiro, founder of Harvard International Negotiation Program, argues in the documentary InnSaei “it’s hard stuff [unconscious way of being/intuition], just as hard as math, science, and economics.”

Why is this important when it comes to ThinkSpot?  The primary purpose of ThinkSpot is connection.  For individuals to open up and say three difficult words… “I don’t know”.  McChrystal positions this as Resilience Thinking:

“Resilience thinking is the inverse of predictive hubris.  It is based in a humble willingness to “know that we don’t know” and “expect the unexpected”…

“I don’t know” isn’t about giving up – it’s about being open enough to saying we don’t have all the answers.  This is critical when we are exploring new ideas and co-creating together – knowing there must be some risk since we don’t know the outcome – yet creating a shared consciousness by tapping into what we collectively logically know, emotionally feel, and intuitively sense.

In order for people to feel safe when sharing ideas they need to know they will not be judged for putting something out there that is perceived as “silly, ridiculous, or not worth listening to”.  We also need to learn the skills of discerning how to navigate suggestions or insights.   It’s a balance and dance of giving and hearing everything from the position of goodwill.  Losing the intuitive or unconscious sensing contribution of someone who feels intimidated in saying anything, is too costly for any initiative or project.  It doesn’t mean they are right – yet we need to hear the input.

Being in a nature enhanced environment supports and accelerates this open and relaxed way of being in order to deeply understand each other.  If this can happen in minutes versus hours, days, weeks or months – perhaps never – then how and where we come together is a way of honouring each other and the work we do.

And so there you have it.  A lifetime of experience committed to the importance of connecting – whether as individuals, teams, organizations, and communities.  It’s the Why” behind my journey and if you’ve come this far – a big thank you from me for patiently reading.