Should you ask a fish to climb a tree?

There is an orchid in my bathroom. So what? It’s not a hugely unusual thing to have in a bathroom, it’s a bright, beautiful and gracious plant and I’m sure that many of its relations live in bathrooms all around the country.

My ‘so what?’ is that we’ve had that beautiful orchid more than 18 months now and I don’t do anything very special with it (a bit of watering now and again is about all that happens) but it is still looking beautiful (as orchids tend to do) and it is even sporting not one, but two new stems with flowers and even more buds. Given that in the past I’ve been pretty adept at killing them, I think that this is pretty impressive.

So, what’s the secret? As I have seen off a multitude of orchids in the past, I don’t think that I can claim it’s something that I’m doing differently, it’s not magic, or new-found skill that’s responsible for its flourishing. The only thing that I can claim is that I’ve accidentally found just the right conditions for an orchid to not only survive, but flourish and thrive.

Albert Einstein said this…

“Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”

And I think that we are on the same lines with our thinking. Find the right conditions for someone (or something) to succeed and you will help them to unlock their ‘genius potential.’

In the recently published CIPD HR Outlook for Winter 2012- 2013 it asserts that businesses need flexible and agile people to achieve higher or similar with a smaller number of employees. The pressure is on to do more with less and the study suggests that employees need to work out of their comfort zone more of the time. But is this like asking that fish to climb the tree again?

Businesses want to achieve long-term sustainability, and leadership development and employee engagement are recognised as being pivotal in driving the business agenda.

How can we really help people to flourish, find their natural genius and be the best that they can be?

Is it by stretching them far out of their comfort zone, into a situation where they have little or no experience and feel ill-equipped and slightly out of control?

Or is it by helping them to recognise the conditions in which they flourish and helping them to recreate these conditions more and more often in their working environment?

Image Credit: microsoft


Every day’s a school day

This week we were privileged to sponsor the Natural Training Showcase Seminar in London. Described as “a tasty selection of Natural Training’s Award Winning sales, presentation skills and negotiation training brought to you by our passionate trainers” – it was exactly that and so much more……

Bursting with great information and insights, every session was thought-provoking and revealing and we now find ourselves with an abundance of wisdom which is wasted unless we do something meaningful with it!

Here’s the Clear Thinking 6 Step Plan for making the most of any seminar or training event, or even the masses of learning opportunities we are all faced with every day.

It’s based on the very natural approach that has evolved within the Clear Thinking Team, so it’s real and it works for us. It might work for you too……

Step 1: Schedule time to think….before you go

If you are planning to attend something that is likely to stimulate your thinking, then be ready to capitalise on it once it’s over.

Schedule some time for proactive refection into your diary. Probably not on the same day as, if you are anything like me, your mind will be well and truly spangled after a good seminar, but the day after when the thoughts and ideas have landed and you’ve had time to sleep on it.

Step 2: Pin down the outstanding stuff

A great question for starting us off on the journey of reflection was provided by Matt Drought, founder of Natural Training who was also apparently a ‘sprooker’ in a former life (and even though it sounds like a made up word it’s apparently a genuine job in the land down under!)

Matt encouraged us to ‘get out of our groove’ and ask ……what just happened then? Simple! And it’s a basis for reflecting not only on what just happened, but also on how you were thinking and feeling while it was happening too.

Consider what immediately stands out and how it can be applied to what you do. Make a list of every point that springs to mind, no matter how bizarre. You can use logic to evaluate and prioritise later, but for now just go with your gut, as the main thing here is to capture all the possibilities before they wriggle free from your mind and escape forever.

Step 3: Dive into the detail

If you’re like Kate and I, you will take lots of notes and jot down ideas as they come to you during a seminar. Now is the time to review your scribblings in more detail and try to make sense of what you wrote down in the throes of the event, which is not always easy!

You don’t want to miss the great book recommendations that need adding to your Amazon Wish List or the thought leaders who warrant a little more investigation; in this case Daniel Kahneman and Simon Sinek were two of my favourites.

Step 4: Write about it…or even doodle a bit

Pull out anything that seems useful and find a way to write about it. If you like to blog, then perhaps use your blog to develop your thinking and share it with others so your insights can help them too.

Maybe you prefer to keep things a little closer to your chest so a learning journal could be perfect for you; write about what actually happened and what it means to you and your situation. Maybe you have a place where you keep all you best ideas, if so, add what you just discovered to your existing reservoir of brilliant stuff.

If you don’t consider yourself to be a wordsmith, have you tried a spot of doodling? Draw your thinking to visually record what was useful to you. We love what RSAnimations do with the work of people like Daniel Pink.

Step 5: Take your partner by the ……brain

Two heads can be better than one, or so they say. Think out loud with a thinking partner to review your learning in words and gestures, and to share the light bulb moments and the revelations. We kept the other travellers in our train carriage entertained on the journey back ‘up North’ with this one.

If you choose your thinking partner wisely, they will ask you questions that will deepen your understanding and insight…..they may help you shift your thoughts and words to the next critical step!

Step 6: Turn thinking into action

 Without knowledge action is useless and knowledge without action is futile.

The final step is to evaluate what we’ve learned and link it to our priorities. By giving the stuff we’ve learned a fairly substantial kick about, we can check out its relevance to our current work.

If is important then we can build it into an objective and shape it into an action and actually do something with it. If it’s not important right now, but it has a place in the future, we can store that thought somewhere so it can be revisited when the time is right.

So, if there is one small thing you do after reading this, try making ‘every day a school day’ and keep asking “what just happened then?”  

Thanks to the team at Natural Training for creating a superb learning opportunity through their Showcase, we’re already eagerly anticipating the next one.