The uncomfortable space. Don’t rush to answer the question.

I loved this article ‘Reflections’ from Richard Merrick – which explores the idea that the challenge is creating the space for the questions to emerge of their own accord, rather than forcing them to the surface.

“The best way to find out things, if you come to think of it, is not to ask questions at all. If you fire off a question, it is like firing off a gun; bang it goes, and everything takes flight and runs for shelter. But if you sit quite still and pretend not to be looking, all the little facts will come and peck round your feet, situations will venture forth from thickets and intentions will creep out and sun themselves on a stone; and if you are very patient, you will see and understand a great deal more than a man with a gun.”

A superb bit of analysis about the questions we rush to answer and the ones we shouldn’t ask.

The article also cites a simple representation of ‘the space where real work gets done’ – created by Bill Sharpe in his wonderful little book “Three Horizons, The patterning of hope“. I’ve dropped it below – along with the explanation of the three lines.

Horizon one is where most of us spend most of our time, the SMART world full of plans, metrics, measures and standards. Fuel for appraisals and bonuses, and pecking order politics.

Horizon three is delightfully unaccountable – our long term aims, dreams, and ideals. The reason people buy lottery tickets, even though we know they don’t deliver, even if we win. (it seems, no matter how much people win, eighteen months later they are not only back where they were, if not further back.

Horizon two is the uncomfortable space. Close enough to be understood, far enough away to put off until tomorrow, like Climate Change. A place where it’s easier for someone else to do the work, and offer us menu choices.

Merrick observes that we have a culture that keeps us in horizon one, reassures us that horizon three will be wonderful, and mostly outsources horizon two to those with no skin in the game. That’s a recipe for stasis.

A really great article, worthy of your time and thought.



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