I was in a meeting in the last week or so where someone had posed an “either/or” question to those in attendance. Something along the lines of: “Are you in favour of option A or option B?” It wasn’t a simple choice, and I think I was the first to attempt to respond. I did so by exploring the merits of both choices as I thought both had some merit. In doing so, I suppose I was speaking eloquently but I wasn’t really answering the question posed and eventually the person who asked the question interjected to ask me to make the simple choice requested.
I did make this choice but wasn’t satisfied by doing so. My point was going to be that I had a preference but thought a blended solution might be better. I thought about this after the meeting wondering how I might have engaged more effectively, and gained an understanding that by being somewhat long-winded in my response I lost the opportunity to make that point. How might less have become more in this circumstance? What if I had simply answered “I choose option A with some elements of B added for support.”
For some reason, the venerable Japanese art form of Haiku poetry has been prominent in my life over the past several months, and I have become enamoured by its simplicity and brevity. Haiku is a three line poem with five syllables in the first, seven in the second and five in the third. Seventeen syllables in total to express a complete thought or concept.
A coach/mentor (Karl Grass, author of Compassion Haiku) I have worked with over the past year introduced Haiku into his repertoire. Karl found that the artistry of the form engaged the right hemisphere of his brain, introducing creative thought into his otherwise logical thinking. Our coaching certification class further embraced the form for us to encapsulate our learnings into powerful thoughts. A fellow blogger has also recently come to find Haiku a meditative and entrancing way of expressing herself, and we are challenging encouraging each other to regularly express ourselves in this form.
But without summarizing at the end of such a working session, we are at risk of having all of that good inquiry and discovery slide away. Perhaps even worse, without summing up we are at risk of having people leave the room with differing solutions, outcomes and agreements in mind. Do we take the time to boil down all this great work into a simple, concise statement that we can all agree to as what we are taking forward?
What if we as leaders held this metaphor of Haiku in mind as we help our teams capture the value they create? I realize that a mere seventeen syllables may not always be adequate for this task, nor is a poem something that we can always use as a medium of business communication. But what if we at least honored the spirit of Haiku? What if we challenged our teams to create concise summaries to take out of meetings and mobilize individual efforts going forward?