A few weeks ago, I attended a forum of city and regional managers discussing various issues that are affecting local governments in British Columbia. In the last part of the forum, those local government executives participate to an unscripted, open session called “Nuts & Bolts” during which individuals having issues they wish to discuss with their peers bring them forward with the intent to find out how others deal with them. It is a way to share ideas and to brainstorm for best practices and possible solutions. No agenda is prepared and the free flow of questions and answers favours a correspondent flow of ideas that is pretty unique and extremely valuable. One of the city managers went on to say that this session, to him, is the most important one of and the main reason he participates to this annual event.
Similarly, a few years ago, I participated to a church leaders training in Surrey where something similar happened. The presiding officer, David A. Bednar, an educator by profession and, at that time, the president of Brigham Young University Idaho, introduced to the group a different way of training based on free flow of ideas. He called it a “revelatory experience” based on impressions and promptings solicited by scriptural study and influenced by the Holy Spirit. This experience was also a turning point in my life and I began applying it in various aspects of my learning.
Although both experiences are different as to audience and subjects of discussion, they are very similar as to the means of learning applied. I call it “Random Thinking” and I believe it is a necessary aspect of true personal growth and progressive leadership.
We can apply this mental process to almost everything. In fact, I believe that this ties very well with the principle of ‘learning by observation and feeling’ that I have discussed in my articles many times before. For instance, it could be applied in decision-making based on story-telling and not only on facts and empirical data. The reason I say this is that we tend to forget that decisions are made by individuals and that bias and emotional intelligence play an important role in all we do.
The point is that we cannot discard how someone perceives something and how that may affect that person’s life. I have seen too many times applying a “cookie cutter” approach to diverse issues. It is distressing and conflictual. In fact, negatively conflictual. The fact is that we live in communities and societies and so we interact with other people and although conflict is inevitable there is always a way to minimize it. Albert Schweitzer once said: “Man can no longer live his life for himself alone. We realize that all life is valuable and that we are united to all this life. From this knowledge comes our spiritual relationship with the universe.” One of the problems of today’s society is that individuals tend to put themselves first a little too much and this creates a selfish approach to human interaction.
However, I continue to foster hope and I was recently encouraged by a very personal and dramatic event that occurred just a few days ago. My family and I were driving on the highway to reach our destination for a well-deserved break when our vehicle drove over a sheet of ice. My wife lost control of the car and after a few scary spinning moments it rolled over and ended up in a ditch. We were all wearing seat belts but because of the rollover we were also in a very uncomfortable position within the van. My father-in-law, who was sitting beside me, ended up on me as his seat belt failed to support his weight. I was even more uncomfortable because his full weight was pressing against my head and neck. I had to exert all my physical strength to support his body to avoid that he would cover my face and deprive me of my respiratory ability. My main concern, at that point, was how long it would take for rescuers to reach us and free us from our vehicle because I was not sure how long I would be able to continue support my father-in-law’s body.
Well, in a matter of seconds after the accident a number of people stopped their cars and started to work on our vehicle and we were all freed in minutes. To me that was an example of selfless genuine interest in other human beings’ need for help which continues to and will continue to impress me for the rest of my life. My point is, we do not need to wait until a drama happens to help others. In fact we can avoid a drama to unfold if we decide to collaborate and find synergistic approaches to problem-solving.
Maybe we should remember more often what Anne Frank wrote in her diaries before her capture: “I don’t think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.” Certainly, a new approach can start only with us. Are we willing to change?