Archive for July, 2010

Business insight through the Forum Theatre

July 26th, 2010 Kevin No comments

A gentleman named Augusto Boal was a theater man. He used his expertise to devise a form of theater known as Forum Theatre. The gist of it is that the actors’ words and actions, although scripted initially, change due to insights and observations from the audience. Boal changed what he calls the audience from spectators to “spectactors.”

So tell us what happens?

There are many versions of how Forum Theatre gets performed. In one, a short play is acted out in its entirety. After that the actors begin again and when a spectactor feels inspired, he or she offers a new direction about where the dialogue and action can go. The actors try those new suggestions and the play continues. Sometimes the audience member can replace an actor with himself or herself. Many changes continue and often, the play is seen in a completely different light by its end. Then the group can talk about what happened, for what reasons, and with what impact on outcomes.

So what does theater have to do with business?

Many businesses have used this form of theater to gain business insight and engage in business training. Business ritual can be bound by tradition and habit. When those traditions and habits deserve to change, this form of performance art allows business colleagues to explore with each other how those changes can occur.

How can I learn more?

Feel free to search the net for “Augusto Boal” or “Forum Theatre.” If you add the word “business” in your search, you will stumble upon numerous sites dedicated to this type of interaction. While you might not have the gumption to put on a full board Forum Theatre, you may get inspired to offer your team some different skits and methods used by Boal and others to convey change and growth. Change and growth are very healthy for corporate life.


Categories: Learning, People Tags:

Please follow the “no more than 7 things at once” rule

July 21st, 2010 Kevin No comments

Say things in bits of 7 or less. Mostly, reduce it to 3.

Examples: Tell someone your phone number is 555-2961, and not 201-555-2961. Or give them your zip code as 86153, and do not add the “post office four!” In other words, do not say 9 numbers straight in one blast: 861539039. Doing that is inappropriate.

What do we make of this “7 or less” rule?

The 7 bit rule happens, it happens all over the world, you can’t beat it so might as well join it. It’s how our brains work. On average, they process about 7 bits per blast of information (in computer speak: we inherited a 7 bit processor). Mostly though, brains are 3 bit processors. That’s why three things are magic, in bullet points, religion, and friends.

When you say things do it in 7s or less; when you can, limit it to 3 things!

Categories: Brain power, Learning, Thoughts Tags:

Is anyone listening?

July 20th, 2010 Kevin No comments

Has this happened to you: you share how you experience things and nothing registers with the other person, no one seems to be home?

What’s happening?

This situation can be exasperating, true? Why doesn’t the person care to listen? Why doesn’t he or she just “get it”?

More to the point: what can you do about it?

Next time ask: “Would you like to hear how I make sense of it?”

Why this question?

Asking the other person if he or she wants to know how you make sense of things clears the air. If the other person says “No,” or looks away, or disregards the question, then you know he or she is not interested in your viewpoint. Right then you can stop trying to make sense.

Stop making sense, are you crazy?

Whoa…. I am not asking you to stop making sense completely! Rather, next time just refrain from offering your sense when the other person makes clear they don’t want to hear it. mostly, repetitive sense making in non-receptive ears goes in one and out the other. Nothing sticks and you might get a sore throat!

Then what can you do?

Well, you can stop talking altogether as you maintain a positive attitude and energy level. You can offer something like, “We can revisit this later.” Alternatively, you can persistently inquire how he or she makes sense of the subject and connect what he or she says with what you sense about things.

What should you not do when people don’t seem to be listening?

Whatever you do, do not share your sense of things once the other person makes it clear he or she doesn’t care to hear it. They might be listening for other things, and you can explore those, they just don’t care in that particular moment to hear how you make sense of things. If that is the case, then give the conversation some patience, try a different tact, and over time see what happens.

Let me know how it goes!

Categories: Learning, People, Questioning Tags:

What’s the gist of this post? Use gist more!

July 7th, 2010 Kevin No comments

What is “gist?”

Gist has a background in the French and English languages. It stands for “the essence.” In other words, the main thing you need to know.

Where did the word come from?

In olden days, “gist” meant “to lie.” Not as in, “He lies like a rug; he never tells the truth,” but more like, “The idea lies there, just as it is.” In the old French-English legal system, it meant the argument being made was sustainable at law.

Why is gist so important?

“Gist” is another way of referring to “the pattern” of things. And patterns are how we come to understand things. So getting the “gist” is great for us because it means we “get it,” we get the pattern. Once we have the pattern we can make sense of what we are hearing, seeing, and experiencing.

Why are patterns so important?

Patterns are critical because we are pattern making machines. Mostly, we get to know more things based on what we already know, and how we know it. That requires that we pattern the new stuff right on top of or around the old stuff we already patterned before. So, anything new desperately wants to “pattern” to what we already know. That way we can make sense of it. So the gist, for us, is the way to think about something that connects and patterns to other things we already know.

Now what?

Well, next time you want to understand things better, ask people what the “gist” of what they are saying is. Doing that will help them and you because the idea of gist is the idea of getting to the essence of things. It’s short hand for: can you sum up what you just said please?

So what’s the gist of this post?

The gist is: use gist more! It’s a handy little way to ask people to help you understand what they are saying and what it means for you.

Gist away!

Categories: Learning, People Tags:

Why do we put up with self-deceit?

July 1st, 2010 Kevin No comments

Why do we routinely and automatically deceive ourselves? What’s up with that?

The big question: why do we engage in self-deceit?

The answer: mostly we can’t handle the truth about who we are. At least our ancestors couldn’t do that many moons ago, when our wiring got sorted out. Now we are mostly hard-wired to self-deceive ourselves. It’s a coping mechanism. That’s why getting to “know thyself” is highly touted and hard to achieve.

But why are we so good at spotting the deception of others?

Turns out we are great at spotting the deception of others (mostly!… check in with a few ex-wives and ex-husbands to hear about some colossal misses). We can with ease spot the failings, foibles, and petty deceits of others. That’s because the lives of our ancestors depended on it.

Say some more: why exactly are we good at spotting deceit in others?

Scientists attribute the notion of trust as coming from a need for our ancestors to pick the right folks to hang around with to ensure their own survival. Put another way: the portion of the herd that follows the wrong people thins. For eons, then, trust and rapport were non-negotiable survival tools used to get along and to get ahead. Yet with sheer, blinding, and awe-inspiring force we can summons a powerful and rather intense ignorance that deceives ourselves and others.

Why is it we are so good at seeing deceit in others and not in ourselves?

Scientists now claim they figured that out too, that is, why we see deceit in others and not in ourselves. They say that to cope with the strange, odd, and unsettling realization that we are an awkward bundle of contradictions, our ancestors simply hard-wired away our ability to spot deception when we do it to ourselves! Said again: we have wiring that makes us miss the deception we bring upon ourselves.

There it is: our self-deceit is a hard-wired gift from our ancestors!

In short, we are hard-wired to deceive ourselves. Isn’t that the darnedest thing you’ve every heard?

So now what?

Well, we can use the same tools we use for discovering deception in others right back at us. Those tools include visual and auditory inspection of our verbal and non-verbal messages. We can constantly check those messages and compare what we say, how we say it, and for what reasons we say it with a newfound ability to scrutinize those messages. For example, “If I were not me, and I heard that line spoken that way, would I trust it? Would I believe it?”

Have you ever watched yourself on video?

When we see ourselves on video, it’s not the image we have of ourselves, is it? A sure fire way to spot our own deception is to pay attention to our body language. Check in on it next time you express it. Consider what state of mind you think you might be in. And reevaluate. Get to know yourself by verifying your actions and the messages you send others. Do they pass the smell test? Consider yourself a witness to them and experience your own comments and conduct to get a sense of what impact they will have on others. Pay attention to the little things, those subtle cues we all pick up on with others that tell us whether someone passes the smell test.

So can you summarize your advice for us?

Sure. Because we are wired to self-deceive, next time you offer up opinions and facts that might contradict each other, might deceive someone, then with an outsider’s eye smell, see, and hear yourself in action. Your efforts will improve over time and you will get good at cutting away the self-deception. Give it a try!

Good luck, let me know how it goes!

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