I’m sure you’re all familiar with the sort of email that arrives from a friend or a colleague passing on an interesting article or an interesting video. I’m never sure what I’m going to get when they show up, although often the person they come from will have some clue as to content! 🙂
I subscribe to a number of streams of thought including several blogs so I know what I’m going to get there most of the time. For the more random arrivals, I’m never sure and I have to admit that I sometimes “filter” without reviewing based on (a) my state of mind (b) my state of “busyness” and (c) the sender. In other words I pass judgment based on how I am receiving things at that particular moment.
The video below arrived as random content, and I didn’t open it for several days. It got trapped in my filters, and I only opened it because it was a Ted Talk and I’m partial to those (another judgment). But have a look and then I’ll go on with my thoughts.
As I watched this video, here are some of the thoughts that passed through my head:
- This guy seems nervous.
- He’s not a very good public speaker.
- I wonder if something interesting is going to happen as some point.
- This is too detailed.
- Maybe not all Ted Talks are for me.
- This guy isn’t dressed the way most people I see on Ted.
- What is the point of this presentation?
I don’t remember for sure, but I probably fired up some nervous habits and lost full attention. If the presenter had been in the room with me he surely would have noticed my distraction at some level.
Then we got to the end as he presented the product of his work … a clarinet made from a carrot, a kitchen funnel and a saxophone mouthpiece. He presented it to the audience with a slight bow and polite (perhaps even engaged) applause. Still doubt and judgment on my part … is that all there is? Maybe he will play the darned thing and I’ll at least get some amusement out of this.
And then he did play it, and I was rapt by the talent of this man. I was blown away that someone could make music of this quality playing a carrot!
It made me reflect back on all those thoughts that went through my head and re-label them as judgments, at which point they snickered knowingly at me. I realized how easy it is for our filters to kick in without our real awareness and start to make pronouncements that have no founding in real fact.
When I think about what Linsey Pollak has to teach me it has to do with possibility, creativity, divergent thinking, curiosity and add to that judgment.
Once all of this occurred to me I went and Googled more about Linsey and found that he is actually a scholar as relates to musical instrument design, and that carrot clarinets are not the end of his creations. They include rubber glove bagpipes, chair flutes and garden hose pan pipes.
What I really started to wonder about is how these biases that arose in me stifle creativity and the art of the possible in others. How often do I pass quick and unconscious judgment on the viability of an idea without even stopping to consider the possibility that I might not know everything I need to know?
Most of us arrived in our roles as leaders because of our judgment and our decision-making abilities, and yet those same skills by their nature have caused us to be judgmental in some way. What would happen if we learned to set aside our learned behavior (judging) and instead adopted a position of curiosity and “servant” listening (learning) in every engagement with others, knowing we always can re-engage with our decision-making core when it is time?
It might take a few cycles of trying this, but how might our team members react to our non-judgmental curiosity after they learned that we really are interested in listening and learning from them? What great new ideas and concepts might arise for our organizations and beyond if we just let go of our internal filters?