Ask more questions! sellers are admonished. Ask better questions! leaders and coaches are reminded. Questions seem to be a prompt in many fields, from medicine to parenting. But why?

There’s a universal assumption that questions will yield Truth, generate ‘real’ discussion topics or realizations, or uncover hidden gems of information or important details. Good questions can even inspire clarity. Right?

I’d like to offer a different point of view on what questions really are and how they function. See, I find questions terribly subjective and often don’t get to the Truth. In fact, it’s quite possible to use questions in a way that enables Others to discover their own, often hidden and unconscious, answers.

WHAT IS A QUESTION?

Let me start with Google’s definition of ‘question’: a grouping of words posed to elicit data. Hmmmm…. But they don’t often elicit accurate data. Here’s my assessment. Questions are:

  • posed according to the needs, curiosity, goals, and intent of the Asker;
  • interpreted uniquely and unconsciously, according to a Responder’s world view;
  • potentially ignore more important information outside the Asker’s purview.

And, to make it worse, our normal processes get in the way:

  1. Language: Questions are posed using words and languaging unique to the Asker. Using their own (subjective) intent and goals, their own idioms and word choices, Askers assume Responders will accurately interpret them and respond along expected lines. This expectation is most easily met between folks who are familiar with each other, but less successfully with those outside the Asker’s sphere of influence. Too often Responders interpret a query quite differently than intended, offering responses far afield from the Asker’s intent.
  2. Listening/brain: All incoming words enter our ears as meaningless sound vibrations (see my book on this topic), “puffs of air” that eventually get translated according to historic circuits based on our mental models that have been set during our lifetimes. In other words, and similar with the language problem, Responders may not accurately translate incoming questions according to the intent of the Asker. The way Responders hear and interpret the question is at the mercy of the Responder’s brain circuits.
  3. Curiosity: Often an Asker seeks data, thoughts, according to his/her desire for knowledge. It might be for research, interest, or ego – to exhibit their intelligence or prove their commitment. Yet given the way information is stored and retrieved in the brain, the question may capture some degree of applicable data, or a whole lotta subjective, unconscious thoughts that may or may not be relevant.

As you can see, questions posed to extract useful, relevant data have a reasonable chance of failure: with an outcome biased by the needs and subjectivity of the Asker, with Responders listening through brain circuits that delete incoming sound vibrations and only translate incoming words according to what’s been heard before, it’s likely that standard questions won’t gather the full set of information as intended.

TYPES OF QUESTIONS

Here’s my opinion on a few different forms of question:

Open question: To me, open questions are great in social discussions but there’s no way to get precise data from them. What would you like for dinner? will prompt an enormous variety of choices. But if the fridge only has leftovers, an open question won’t work, and a closed question “Would you like me to heat up last night’s dinner or Monday night’s dinner?” would. Open questions cause brains to do a transderivational search that may unearth responses far afield from the Asker’s intent and the Asker is out of control.

Closed question: I love these. They are perfect when a specific response is needed. What time is dinner? Should we send answers now or wait until our meeting? Of course they can also be highly manipulative when only limited responses are offered for potentially broad possibilities.

Leading question: Don’t you think you rely on conventional questions too much? That’s a leading question. Manipulative. Disrespectful. Hate them.

Probing question: Meant to gather data, these questions face the same problem I’ve mentioned: using the goal, intent, and words of the Asker, they will be interpreted uniquely as per the Responder’s historic stored content, and extract some fraction of the full data set possible.

Given the above, I invented a new form of question!

FACILITATIVE QUESTION

When I began developing my brain change models decades ago, I realized that conventional questions would most likely not get to the most appropriate circuits in someone’s brain that hold their best answers.

Knowing that our brain’s unconscious search for answers (in 5 one-hundredths of a second) leads to subjective, historic, and limited responses along one of the brain’s neural superhighways, I spent 10 years figuring out how to use questions to help people find where their unbiased (and unconscious) answers reside.

One of the main problems I had to resolve was how to circumvent a brain’s automatic and unconscious preferences to make it possible to notice the broadest view of choices.

            Language to avoid bias and promote objectivity

Since questions (as words) are automatically sent down specific neural routes, I had to figure out a way to use language to broaden the routes the brain could choose from, expand possibility, and circumvent bias as much as possible – a difficult one as our natural listening is unwittingly biased.

Incoming words get translated according to our existing superhighways that offer habitual responses. To redirect listening to where foundational answers are stored, I figured it might be possible to use questions to override and redirect the normal routes to find the specific cell assemblies where value-based answers are stored and not always retrieved by information gathering questions! That led me to a model to use specific words in a specific order so the brain would be led to find the best existing circuits.

To accomplish this, my Facilitative Questions are brain-change based, and save information gathering until the very end of the questioning process when the proper circuits have been engaged.

            Getting into Observer

To make sure Responders are in as neutral and unbiased a place as possible, avoid the standard approach of attempting to understand, and have a chance of listening without misunderstanding, Facilitative Questions are formulated in a way that puts Responders in Observer, a meta position that overrides normalized neural circuitry. They are not information gathering and use the mind-body connection to direct incoming messages to where accurate answers exist that often are not noticed via conventional questions.

Let me show you how to put yourself into an Observer, coach/witness position – the stance you want your Responders to listen from – so you can see how effective it is at going beyond bias. You’ll notice how an objective viewpoint differs from a subjective one and why it’s preferred for decision making. Indeed, it’s a good place to listen from so you can hear responses without your own biases.

Here’s an exercise: See yourself having dinner with one other person. Notice the other person across from you (Self, natural, unconscious, subjective viewpoint). Then mentally put yourself up on the ceiling and see both of you (Observer, conscious, objective, intentional viewpoint).

If you’re having an argument with your dinner partner, where would you rather be – ceiling or across the table – to understand the full data set of what was going on so you could make personal adjustments?

On the ceiling, where you’d see both of you. From this meta position, you’d be objective, free from the feelings and biases that guided the argument along historic circuits. From Observer you’d have the best chance to make choices that might resolve your problem. Try it for yourself! Don’t forget to go back down to Self to communicate warmly. My clients walk around saying ‘Decide from Observer, Deliver from Self.’

So when developing Facilitative Questions, I had to put listeners into Observer. I played with words and found that these cause Responders to unconsciously step back (i.e. meta) to look into neural circuits with an unbiased, less subjective, and broader view.

  • how would you know if…
  • what would you need to understand differently…

Notice they immediately cause the Responder to ‘observe’ their brain; they do NOT gather data or cause ‘understanding’ in the Asker. The intent is to have the Responder begin to look into their brains to discover answers stored outside the automatic circuitry.

            Change the goal

I also had to change the goal of a question, from my own curiosity and need to elicit data to helping the Other discover their own answers.

“Why do you wear your hair like that?”

is a conventional question puts the Responder directly into Self and their automatic, historic, unconscious responses, while

“How would you know if it were time to reconsider your hairstyle?”

enables the Responder to step back, to look into their full circuitry involving hair (How would you know), look at current and past hairstyles (if it were time), note their situation to see if it merits change (reconsider), and have a more complete data/criterion set with which to possibly make a change – or not.

Note: because some questions are interpreted in a way that (unwittingly) causes Responders to distrust you, Facilitative Questions not only promote an expanded set of unbiased possibilities, but encourages trust between Asker and Responder and doesn’t push a response.

            Questions follow steps to change

The biggest element I had to figure out was the sequence. I figured out 13 sequential steps to all change and decision making and I pose the Facilitative Questions down the sequence. Here are the main categories:

  • Where are you and what’s missing? Responder begins by discovering their full set of givens, some of which are unconscious.
  • How can you fix the problem yourself? Systems don’t seek change, merely to resolve a problem at the least ‘cost’ to the system. To minimize any ‘cost’ involved, it’s best to begin by trying to fix the problem with what’s familiar.
  • How can you manage change without disruption and with buy-in? Until it’s known what the fallout of the ‘new’ will be, and there’s agreement, no change will occur.

For those who wish to learn how to formulate Facilitative Questions, I’ve developed an Accelerator you can purchase. Enjoy.

          WHO WILL BENEFIT FROM FACILITATING DISCOVERY?

Facilitative Questions are especially helpful in

  • data gathering to discover a more expanded range of choices,
  • decision making to uncover each element of consideration as matched with values and outcomes,
  • habit/behavior when seeking to understand and modify the patterns and neural circuitry underlying the current behaviors,
  • leadership, sales, coaching when leading others to discover routes to new choices.

I’ve trained these questions globally for sales folks learning my Buying Facilitation® model to help prospects become buyers, and for coaches and leaders to help followers discover their own best answers.

If your job is to serve, the best thing you can offer others is a commitment to help them help themselves. Facilitative Questions can be used in any industry, from business to healthcare, from parenting to relationships as tools to enable discovery, change, and health.

It takes a bit of practice to create these questions, but the coaches, sellers, doctors, and leaders I’ve taught them to use them to help Others discover their own excellence. I encourage you to consider learning them. And I’m happy to discuss and share what I know. sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com My hope is that you’ll begin to think about questions differently.

___________________________

Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. www.sharon-drew.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

September 12th, 2022

Posted In: News

295 Comments

Think about the number of stars in the sky. Let’s say you’ve been told that 500 of them would provide elements of a good resolution to one of your problems, although some would be better than others. You’re offered a spaceship to bring you to just one of them. How would you know which star to choose given you can’t know where they’re located or what, specifically, they can provide?

Now, let’s parallel your brain with the stars, although there are more synapses, neurons, and circuits in your brain than there are stars in the sky! The problem above is the exact problem your brain faces whenever you want to do or decide something: you have a wish, an aspiration; you want to make a new decision; your team needs to figure out how to approach a new initiative.

To make your decision, your brain must send the ‘request’ to one grouping of your 1,000 trillion synapses, neural pathways, circuits (etc.) for translation into action. How does it choose? And how do you know it’s the best possible choice?

In this article I’d like to explain how your neural circuitry (abbreviated here as ‘circuits’) creates and biases everything you experience, and why you get resistance during a change initiative.

BRAINS MERELY INTERPRET SIGNALS

Let me begin with a bit of background on brains. See, they are merely electro-chemical interpretation devices, devoid of thought or meaning. That’s right: you think with your mind, but the instruction to act come from brain circuits that (simplistically) get chosen and triggered by the vibrations of the incoming content. You think or hear something, your brain captures the corresponding vibrations, dispatches the subsequent signals for interpretation, and the results are sent to your mind for action.

Without the mind-brain interaction, you wouldn’t feel, see, hear, or do anything. And here is where a problem emerges: few of us realize that our self-talk – our fears and annoyances, rejections and excitement, plans and rationalizations – as well as our actions, comes from instructions sent by our brain and might not accurately represent a full fact pattern.

When you make a decision, see a color or listen to a concert, you assume what you experience is an accurate representation of what’s happening. And sometimes it is. But sometimes your lazy brain has chosen the nearest superhighway (sequence of circuits) to translate the experience and it’s only a good-enough choice among a thousand other possibilities. Since it’s the only option you were given, how would you know there are better ones available?

See, your brain can’t tell the difference between good or bad – it only sorts for matching signals to interpret an input: meaning, intent, importance are not accounted for. Imagine if it were possible to consciously choose or create the exact circuits to provide your best choices!

YOUR BRAIN IS A PREDICTIVE MACHINE

Your brain is merely a predictive machine, comprised of vast numbers of elements (synapses, neural pathways, axons, etc.) that hold your history. To achieve an outcome, it employs thousands of biological, physiological, electrical, and chemical interactions that interpret incoming messaging into output action: input from the mind and setting (requests, conversations, thoughts, music, etc.), goes through some internal processing that filters the incoming to make sure it’s congruent, and eventually provides meaning and action (output).

In other words, everything you experience is directly from an instruction in your brain. Even words have no meaning until a brain circuit interprets them for you. In fact, many of the books I’ve read call words puffs of air!

Indeed, your mind has no way to understand or act, hear or see, unless your brain interprets it. Here’s what happens: the brain

  • filters incoming vibrations (inputs) from thoughts, feelings, sounds and words
  • through your Beliefs,
  • turns what remains into electro-chemical signals, and
  • dispatches them to ‘similar-enough’ circuits (among your 1,000 trillion)
  • that exit in your historic neural circuitry and
  • translates them into outputs/meaning or action (behaviors, decisions),

all in five one-hundredths of a second. Here is a simplistic diagram using the language of neuroscience:

INPUT (VIBRATIONS, WORDS) -> FILTERS (BELIEFS, MENTAL MODELS) -> CUE (CREATES SIGNALS) -> CEN (DISPATCH) -> OUTPUT (INTERPRETATION – WHAT WE THINK WAS SAID)

The process is automatic, devoid of meaning, and unconscious; you have no choice but to operate from the meaning your brain has provided. Sadly, the conscious ‘you’ is largely out of control: Once you provide an input message, and these vibrations have been turned into signals that become outputs, it’s too late to change their destination.

WE’RE APPROACHING CHANGE IN THE WRONG PLACE

Unfortunately, today’s standard practices for change management ignore the brain change element and focus on modifying the behaviors, decisions, actions – the outputs – AFTER they’ve been generated and therefore difficult to alter.

You end up with resistance or return to an unwanted habit when you try to change a behavior by trying to change a behavior. This is the reason Behavior Modification and other behavior-change models fail 97% of the time. Have you ever tried turning a chair into a table? You can’t, but it’s possible to reprogram the machine (input) to get a table (output)!

For change management, it’s possible to begin by getting a whole team to design the input: the norms of the new system for the proposed outcome, the stakeholders to include (not always obvious), the values and criteria to be met, the goal that everyone agrees to, and then send the brain the full set of criteria to process. This avoids resistance as the group develops suitable neural pathways that generate new responses.

Here’s a very simplistic example of the difference between using an input leading to an existing circuit, and a new input instruction that provides a new output:

“I’m a fat cow now! I need to go on a diet. I’ll start Monday.”

Vs

“I’m a healthy person who will do the necessary research to find the best foods and nutrition to help my body attain and maintain my best weight over time.”

In the first instruction, the brain sends the input to an historic neural pathway used for past diets and provides the same outcome. But the new input carries instructions that don’t have existing circuits and will create a wholly new pathway for permanent weight loss. I call this conscious choice.

THE ROLE OF SYSTEMS IN CHANGE

I’m not a scientist, but as someone with Asperger’s, figuring out how to get into my brain to have conscious choice has been my ‘topic’ since around 1957 when I became annoyed that I couldn’t hear exactly what someone meant or do precisely what I wanted.

I’ve devoted my life and intense curiosity to reading, thinking, designing, unpacking, writing, and inventing new skills and programs to create conscious routes into the unconscious for making personal decisions, serving Others by enabling their personal discovery and change, and for change initiatives that ensure buy-in and collaboration without resistance. I believe this is a Servant Leader route: how to enable Others to discover and design their own version of Excellence. Great for coaches and leaders.

Over the decades I’ve realized that change is a systems problem since everything you do must be congruent with who you are. And by judging incoming messages in relation to how ithey maintain your system, your brain is the arbiter of keeping you congruent.

Using systems as the foundation, here are what I consider to be the norms that all change follow as it relates to the brain:

  1. Every person (or group) is a unique, idiosyncratic system made up of norms, history, Beliefs and mental models that define it uniquely and must remain congruent to keep the system whole. Each action, thought, behavior, choice must match the norms, Beliefs, and mental models of the system. Turns out that behaviors are Beliefs in action. I call this the System of Me (SOM).
  2. Whatever you think see, hear, think, ‘know’, feel is what occurs after your brain has chosen interpretation circuits. Your world is restricted according to what you already know and believe; your understanding of unknown concepts is restricted accordingly. This makes curiosity, innovation, understanding new ideas, and accepting direction with new initiatives difficult.
  3. Before your brain changes what is historically built-in, anything new must match the SOM (For those scientists reading this, this is Systems Congruence.) or it will be rejected or resisted. This is true for both individuals and groups.
  4. All existing circuits (of which there are 1,000 trillion) predict the data it will accept. According to Jordi Cami and Luis M. Martinez in The Illusionist Brain,

“When the brain perceives, it generates a prediction…by inferring and anticipating reality based on past experiences.” (pg 102) Over time we generate a codification system…. And through experience we learn to store only what is most relevant (to us) … and eliminate details that we do not process.” (page 182).

In other words, your choices, how you interpret what you hear someone say, what you want to do, is pretty restricted to what’s already ‘in there’. We’re all restricted and unwittingly biased. And yes, there is neurogenesis, and brains constantly evolve. But the evolution is based on the existing neurology, physiology, and biology. How, then, is it possible to cause change and maintain Systems Congruence?

CONGRUENT CHANGE WITHOUT RESISTANCE

When you attempt to make a change without discovering and reorienting those parts of the brain that represent the status quo – regardless of how necessary or effective the new might be – resistance results.

In We Know It When We See It, Richard Masland says neurons get fired together automatically in response to an input used frequently, causing the brain to see these elements together even if only a portion of the same signals are sent (page 137)! He goes on to say:

“Our brain has trillions of cell assemblies that fire together automatically. When anything incoming bears even some of the characteristics [of operational circuits], the brain automatically fires the same set of synapses…There are very few inputs in our world that are not redundant.” (pg 143)

When you attempt to make a change using similar input as you’ve used before (i.e. without involving new input, new circuitry), your brain – acting mechanically and automatically – will seek existing circuitry so long as even a portion of the same signals are sent. And this is how you end up with resistance.

But it doesn’t have to stay that way. I’ve developed models that make it possible to recognize the circuitry causing the activity and enable the brain to develop new circuits or change existing ones as needed.

Note: my models don’t use conventional thinking so you may not have the circuitry to translate my ideas completely. But if you’re interested in the topic, and don’t fully understand the article, contact me and I’ll lead you through it. It’s my life’s work and I’m here to serve you.

WHAT TO DO?

Knowing that your brain is an unreliable servant, how, then, can you create a new output? Here is what must be included:

  1. We must create input messages that include the proper wording and word placement, the correct hierarchy of criteria, the full set of instructions that captures the outcome as well as the route to get there.
  2. By following the natural path the brain takes to make a new decision, it’s possible to create successful initiatives/outputs very efficiently, without resistance. I’ve unpacked the 13 steps to change/decisions that match the flow of systems.
  3. The criteria (often unconscious) that hold the current problem in place (and have been maintained) must be matched when anything new is generated. Resistance follows when this is omitted. I have developed a 5 hour program that makes it possible to unpack a current habit and design new circuits for permanent habit/behavior change.
  4. To know which circuits are involved I invented a new form of question that directs the brain to the exact circuits (i.e. they are NOT information gathering).
  5. It’s vital to capture the full set of norms in the status quo so the underlying Beliefs, mental models, and history remains intact through the change. Without this, there is resistance as the system faces incongruence.

For those of you interested in leading congruent change without resistance, posing questions that enable Others to discover their actual answers, changing habits permanently, please 1. Go to www.sharon-drew.com and read some of the 1000 articles (clearly labelled in categories) on these subjects; 2. Connect with me and we’ll chat: sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

For those seeking the tools to change habits and behaviors, I’ve developed a HOW of Change™ model. For those seeking to enable Others to generate change without resistance, I’ve developed a generic Change Facilitation® model frequently used in sales to facilitate buying.

For those who would like to create their own systemic change models that enable the unconscious to generate effective outputs, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What criteria will you use to generate new messaging that incorporates the SOM for new behaviors and new decisions?
  • How can direct your conscious mind to the relevant access points in your unconscious without bias?
  • How can you influence the choice of circuits to best translate your input?
  • How will you know when there are more appropriate choices if your brain doesn’t offer them?
  • How will you generate the instructions and triggers that cause permanent behavior change that avoids resistance?
  • When creating a new initiative, how will you maintain Systems Congruence?

These are a few of the questions I’ve asked myself for decades and helped lead my thinking. I invite you to join me in discovering all the conscious routes into the unconscious for permanent, congruent, values-based change.

___________________

Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. www.sharon-drew.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.  

August 22nd, 2022

Posted In: News

I used to live in Taos, New Mexico, where I bought everything I ate from a small grocery called Cid’s Market. Run by Cid and Betty Backer, they always offered fresh organic produce, freshly cooked healthy meals, and a health/vitamin section that had everything I wanted. The store environment was happy and very obviously committed to the Taos community. It felt like MY STORE each time I went in. Any question I had was answered; anything I needed was procured, even if it meant they went out and bought me the item at a different store! I was a rabid fan.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who loved them. In the 11 years I lived there (1989-2000) I watched as they grew from a small store to a three story building taking up half a city block. Their service to customers was exceptional. Every morning as the store opened, Cid held a brief meeting with the entire team. “Who pays your salary?” he’d ask. They’d respond “The Customer!” And then they’d start their day.

Everyone’s job was to take care of customers, whatever that entailed. They didn’t need to ‘follow the rules’: that WAS the rule. And creativity and service ensued: In the health department, the manager created free evening community programs for different groups – diabetes sufferers, parents with kids who wouldn’t eat veggies; the produce manager created free cooking classes and lessons on growing organic veggies. Everyone was trusted to make their best decisions and the customers felt their commitment and respect. And in 1993 that was unusual.

One year, on a plane to Mexico to give a keynote address about Servant Leadership, I noticed Cid and Betty.

“Are you going on vacation?” I asked?

“No. We’re going to a conference on Servant Leadership.”

“Oh. I didn’t think a grocery store would seek out that sort of thing.”

“We’re going mostly to learn what we need to learn to serve our employees. If we can’t give them the respect they deserve, and create an environment in which they thrive, we can’t run a business that will also serve our customers. We go to one conference a year to learn all the tools we can so we all have the best knowledge available to serve with.”

They understood that their success came from serving people, community, customers and staff. And they actively made it a priority.

WHAT ARE OUR JOBS?

When corporations consider what their jobs are, they sometimes think Profits, or Products, or Shareholders. But I think it’s something else. Think about it: there’s no job that doesn’t include serving:

  • Sell more? Serve customers.
  • Grow the business, be respected in the industry, and retain clients? Serve the company.
  • Retain and inspire good people with tools to inspire creativity? Serve employees.
  • Maintain optimal skills and health? Serve ourselves.
  • Maintain communication skills? Serve each other.

Without hiring and retaining good people that know how to lead collaboratively; without the skills to help managers, sales folks, team leaders, facilitate buy-in; without the creativity from an entire group that, working together, can develop top notch solutions that produce competitive and imaginative solutions; none of us are in business. No matter what our jobs, our core business is to serve.

Unfortunately, too many of us unwittingly follow trends that take us away from our core business of serving. For example, too many companies have chosen the trend of using their websites to collect names. They embed pop ups to retrieve email addresses, making it impossible to find answers to questions and rendering the site unusable (unless you agree to the cookies) and annoying folks with real interest who might even be customers.

Obviously they’re putting their own goals before those of a possible customer. Why would a company do that? Especially the smaller companies who truly depend on offering information as a sales strategy. Is acquiring my name to push out marketing materials that important? Don’t they know I’ll leave the site rather than agree to accept more spam? That they’ll lose my business because I don’t want my name captured? Those companies have lost their way: they are only serving themselves.

OUR JOBS ARE TO SERVE

What if our real jobs weren’t to collect data, or create content, or push products? What if our jobs were merely to serve? That requires a new skill set, a different viewpoint that produces very different results:

  1. Leaders wouldn’t be getting resistance because they’d attain buy-in and work collaboratively to engage all voices before making change.
  2. Sellers would only pitch to those ready to buy, and use the bulk of their now-wasted time to facilitate people them through their buying decision path as they figured out how to achieve their own type of excellence (and possibly buy solutions).
  3. Managers would hire people whose goal was to serve and retain them because the company’s practices facilitated their excellence.
  4. Coaches would use Facilitative Questions to guide folks to their own answers, trusting each person had their own type of excellence to achieve without the biases of an outsider.
  5. Tech folks would save a great deal of time on projects because they’d be curious without bias, gathering the most accurate data the first time and avoiding biased assumptions that caused flawed results and user complaints.
  6. Companies would be aware of the environment, the role they play in it, and factor in climate issues as a way to serve the planet while serving customers.
  7. Senior Management would dictate that each employee, as well as customers, be cared for respectfully. When an employee isn’t happy, it’s difficult for them to care about customers.

By maintaining focus on ourselves, on our individual needs, we miss the larger picture. By using our jobs and companies as the vehicle to serve others and the planet, we will all live in an excellent world.

__________________________

Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. www.sharon-drew.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

August 1st, 2022

Posted In: News

I often get wonderful ideas during my daily walk. Today I was musing on the implications of Speakers as the arbiters of understanding between Communication Partners. And then I came upon what I think may be an exception. My first name.

Because brains have a hard time accurately interpreting content different from what’s familiar, people generally don’t ‘hear’ my name accurately. But it shouldn’t be THAT difficult. We’re comfortable with Mary Ann. But not, apparently, with Sharon-Drew.

In this article I’ll discuss how incoming words get translated by our brains, but first I’ll give you a few examples of my daily tribulations. And make no mistake: it’s quite obvious to me that since I’m the one responsible for being understood, I’m the one failing. I just don’t know how to do it better.

NOPE. NOT SHARON

I’ll begin by sharing how I introduce myself (If you can think of a better way to say this, PLEASE let me know!) and how a typical introductory conversation goes:

SD: Hi. I’m Sharon-Drew. That’s my first name. Sharon-Drew. Both words. Like Nancy Drew but Sharon-Drew. Both words. Together. Sharon-Drew. It’s my whole first name. What’s your name?

    Hi Sharon. I’m Betty.    

SD: No, actually it’s Sharon-Drew, Betty. My first name is Sharon-Drew. I use both words. Not Sharon please.

    Right. Got it. Hi Sharon.

SD: No. There are 2 words in my first name. Sharon-Drew. And I always use them both and never shorten it.

    Then what’s your last name?

SD: Morgen.

    I thought it was Drew-Morgen.

SD: Nope. First name Sharon-Drew, last name Morgen.

    Huh. So your first name is Sharon-Drew? Gosh, I’ll need to remember that.

This happens, or some semblance of it, about 25 times a week, year in, year out, everywhere in the States. In Europe and Asia, and in my neighborhood where 5 people have double-barreled first names, there’s no problem so I know it’s possible. But the rest of the time, 100% of every person, every day, refers to me (the first time) as Sharon. Here are more stories:

SD: Hi. I’m Sharon-Drew. That’s my first name. Sharon-Drew. Both words. Like Nancy Drew but Sharon-Drew. It’s my whole first name. What’s your name?

        Hi Sharon. I’m…

SD: No, actually my first name is Sharon-Drew. Both words together. Please don’t refer to me as Sharon. I don’t like it.

        If you don’t like Sharon, then what’s your name?

SD: Sharon-Drew. Two words. Last name Morgen. Sharon-Drew, first name. Then Morgen second name.

      Wait, you want them together? Can’t I just call you Sharon? Or Drew?

I could go on: The time at a party when I introduced myself to 5 people in a circle and they each called me Sharon – including the 5th person who’d heard 4 previous name interactions. The time the bureaucrat changed my form so Drew would be under M.I. (middle initial) and I had to show her my license to prove Sharon-Drew was my legal first name and I actually don’t have a M.I. Or the editor that labeled my picture Sharon Morgan (double insult. Last name morgEn) and refused to correct it (“I didn’t get the name wrong. You must have sent it to me wrong.”). It stops being funny after a while.

Of course most people – maybe 70% – remember it after the first time we have this interaction. (My god, who could forget it by then!) Only once did it go on for so long I ended a budding business partnership because the man refused, refused, to call me by my name. Here was our final conversation

SD: I am going to have to walk away from our work together. I can’t figure out how to tell you my name in a way you’ll understand although I’ve tried and failed 9 times (for real). And you can’t figure out that my first name is Sharon-Drew no matter what I say. I don’t see a way forward for us.

R: I still don’t get it. You’re ending because I call you by your name? But I guess you’re right. We just can’t communicate.

Really. Sounds funny in these hilarious stories, but while it’s happening, not so much. And to make matters MUCH worse, my daily defeat is causing me to question my own ability as a Speaker to take responsibility for an interaction. And I’ve written a book extolling this for goodness sakes!

HOW BRAINS TRANSLATE INCOMING CONTENT

The reason people can’t ‘hear’ my name is a great example of how incoming words get (mis)understood by Listeners. It’s actually a brain circuit thing and has nothing at all to do with words or intended meaning.

All incoming words enter our brains as mere sound vibrations – puffs of air with no meaning – that go through several chemical/electrical processes and get dispatched to a circuit of historic and ‘similar-enough’ (A neuroscience phrase! Similar-enough to what??) signals that translate them into what we think we hear.

We’re left thinking we’ve heard accurately, but sometimes it’s nowhere near reality. So when folks don’t ‘get’ my name, they just don’t have the brain circuitry translate an unusual double-barreled name and it’s not their fault.

From my own writing and research, I know it’s my responsibility to use words in a way they’ll be translated accurately. But frankly, even after developing mind-brain models for decades, I still have trouble getting my name understood. Sometimes, when I say ‘two words, together’ or ‘I know it’s odd but…’ folks can add a codicil to their current circuitry. But when people have NO circuits to translate, I fail.

MIND-BRAIN HACKS

That brings up a question: Since we can’t control how our brains translate incoming content, and our listening/understanding capability is restricted by our history, the mental models, experience, and beliefs that shape our Identity, can we have choice?

As Speakers we can help enable accurate comprehension by saying things in several ways, using different metaphors, different words, different tones. Or begin with a summary statement, asking if anything like that is familiar… like, “I’d love to discuss the way we communicated last night. Do you remember any of our history of those sorts of conversations?”

We can also check if what we think we’ve heard is accurate. Ask our Communication Partner:

“I’d like to tell you what I think I heard you say. Can you please check that it’s accurate and correct me if I missed something?”

One of my favorite mind hacks is listening in Observer; meta listening that captures the essence, the metamessage, of what’s being said rather than the exact details. Remember when your small children used crayons on the new wallpaper and you needed a deep breath to remind them to use their pads instead of the wall? Or that time your partner forgot your birthday and you decided to have patience? You were in Observer. Observer offers choice.

As a meta position, Observer enables you to go beyond your standard listening, avoid standard reactions, and enable your brain to do an expanded search. You’re metaphorically going up to the ceiling looking down at the situation with a broader, much-less subjective viewing range, less emotion, and more conscious choice.

When coaching and communicating with clients, in negotiations, or gathering data, I remain in Observer to make sure I listen with as little bias as possible. I have a whole chapter on this in my book on closing the gap between what’s said and what’s heard (WHAT?). It’s a nifty tool to expand choice and minimize bias.

But as with my name, I suppose there are just those times when nothing works. So long as we don’t blame the Listener, it’s our own responsibility as Speakers to be understood and acknowledge we all live in restricting brains.

____________________________

Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. www.sharon-drew.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.    

July 5th, 2022

Posted In: News

Is your team communicating effectively? Do you reach goals on time and without resistance? Are there subgroups that (unwittingly) restrict the outcomes? Are all voices included during brainstorming to assure the full fact pattern and set of possibilities emerges? How are communication breakdowns handled?

I thought of these questions during a recent client chat and remembered a situation I had with Los Alamos Labs in New Mexico some years back. While the tale is a bit outdated, it will serve as a starting point for my belief that team miscommunication is costly for both productivity and people, and happening more often these days with new-forming teams, remote relationships, and distance meetings. And it’s not a difficult problem to fix with a few new skills.

Here’s my Los Alamos Labs case study that might provide a few thoughts. I’ll follow it with ideas and suggestions. LOS ALAMOS LABS

Case study

In the 1990s, Los Alamos Labs had a mailroom [Yes! We used snail mail in those days!] that sorted and delivered incoming mail – contracts, client letters, invoices, etc. It took them 6 days (6 days!) to distribute it; leadership wanted it done in one.

After months of failing to shorten the time line, leadership decided to contract out the work and fire the 26-person mailroom team. Before they took that drastic step, they brought me in to see if I could solve the problem with a team-building training program.

Speaking only to the client who hired me (Big mistake, it turned out) I created a nifty program. I arrived at the client site an hour early to observe the team in action before delivering the training. I immediately noticed much larger problems than merely team issues.

To begin with, the racial disparity was glaring: as the company was in New Mexico (a largely Hispanic population), there were 24 Hispanic (LatinX) people and two Anglos (White); it was quite obvious they didn’t speak to or listen to each other. The two Anglos stayed to themselves, never connecting in any way with the other 24 in the hour I watched them.

Next, there were cliques that operated in sort of a ballet, speaking, connecting, moving within their small groups with none of them going outside their cliques for questions, discussions, or sharing. So either their jobs were unique to each person, or there was massive inefficiency.

Didn’t seem like my team building program was an answer. I promptly threw away the program, went into the assigned training room down the hall, and put two facing chairs in the middle of the room with the rest of the chairs in a circle facing the two middle ones.

When the group came in, I told them I noticed some communication issues that I found disturbing, so before we did the real ‘training’ I wanted any personal issues resolved.

I invited whoever was having a personal issue – a grudge, an annoyance, a distrust – to sit in one of the middle chairs and invite their colleague to sit in the other and discuss the problem. I sat on the floor between the two chairs as the interpreter.

Nothing happened for 15 minutes. Silence. Then I stood up and announced I’d sit there all day if need be, but maybe the manager should begin. Surely he was annoyed with someone!

Roberto reluctantly came and sat on one of the chairs and said that instead of sharing his annoyances, he invited anyone annoyed with him to sit across from him and share their feelings. After a few minutes, a young Hispanic woman came and sat down.

Theresa: I thought so hard about the delivery problems we were having and came up with what I thought was a great idea. But you gave me five minutes and basically didn’t listen. IT’s happened before when I’ve brought you new ideas. I’ll never bring in any new ideas again. And now we might all get fired because nothing has changed. I tried.

Roberto: I was annoyed too because I thought you were complaining about…

I stopped him so I could translate what she was actually saying:

SD: I heard Theresa say she’s having trust issues because she spent time and care presenting ways to try to resolve the problem and felt you ignored her. As the manager your job is not only to make sure your folks trust you but acquire as many ideas from your team as possible. Try a different response.

Roberto: OK! Um. Theresa: I’m so sorry I didn’t hear you as you deserved to be heard. And I’m sad I’ve not heard your ideas. I’m sure all of your ideas are certainly worth discussing. I sometimes am focused on other issues and don’t listen properly. What can I do to regain your trust? And can we set a time later this week to discuss any ideas you have that might help the group be more efficient?

After Theresa came one of the two Anglo people saying he felt the group had a racial bias against him. (Note: racial bias in New Mexico was a long-term cultural issue that affected everyone. I lived in Taos for 11 years and bear the scars.) Again, Roberto started off defending himself, but with my intervention opened up a race-based dialogue that continued within the group most of the day.

Turned out, most of the team members had grievances they shared. By the time everyone was finished discussing angers, annoyances and biases, it was 11:30 at night.

To their credit, there was great authenticity, honesty, and quite a few tears and hugs. Ideas were shared, brainstormed, listened to by all. When there were misunderstandings people were asked to clarify. Ideas seemed to have wings, flying around the room. Everyone was listening attentively and respectfully. We even had a few laughs (A few in-jokes of course, but mostly I was the ‘butt’ of the jokes for sitting so long on the floor. No idea why I didn’t sit on a chair for god’s sakes!).

On Day Two, I led the newly-formed collaboratory through ideas and plans for better communication, more productivity, sharing, and task efficiency. Within days after our time together they brought the 6-day delivery time down to one day and kept their jobs. Problem solved.

One more thing: the team took those 2 middle chairs and put them outside their manager’s office. Every time there was a confusion or disagreement, the people involved went to the chairs: “Let’s discuss this. Meet you at the chairs at 2:00.” The next year they sent me a photo of all of them next to the chairs. On one of the chairs sat a Malcolm Baldrige Excellence Award. They were holding a banner that said, “THANK YOU SHARON-DREW!”

Ahhhhh. I love my job. Although next time I used that strategy I did sit on a chair. 😊

Take Aways

I’d like to think that the skills involved with the final excellence were ones any team could adopt.

  1. Willingness to be honest and authentic regardless of the ‘politically correct’ rules of social conversation.
  2. Willingness to be vulnerable, admit wrong-doing and apologize.
  3. Willingness to be honest about racial issues and hold Truth above feelings or fears.
  4. Willingness to look at the problem and recognize what was working, what responsibilities they had to take to make it right, and willingness to fix it.
  5. The necessity of the whole team being present as witness and judge, through discomfort and exhaustion. There was no place to hide – everyone knew the truth, and it had to be spoken for the greater good, separate from roles or personalities.
  6. Patience to sit for 14:30 hours to resolve all the issues.

The role I played as translator was also vital. Not only did I provide safety, but it took the sting out of any blame and played a role in a meta understanding, away from unconscious human/racial biases or personal traits. Because I didn’t know any of these folks, I was not tangled in any past relationship, role, or status issues. I suspect that another outsider, from another department maybe, could have done the job. But bringing in a consultant isn’t a bad idea when an impartial eye/ear is needed.

SELF-CORRECTING TEAMS

This team was so comfortable with their long-standing cultural norms that their communication problems were endemic and led to ineffective work habits.

How many companies face the same problem? How many groups just keep on keepin’ on in ignorance or denial, making excuses and playing the blame-game with their resultant failures? How many groups only collect data from a chosen few and omit the entire population that would yield imaginative ideas that conventional leadership seems to ignore? How many important, creative, and valid ideas get ignored because of gender or race or sexual preference issues?

The cost of doing nothing is high:

    1. A minimization of good ideas. Client-facing employees are often omitted from company change and problem-solving because they’re not ‘on the leadership team.’ Yet they have great ideas that leadership doesn’t think of. Use these folks. You hired them each for a reason. Put their ideas into action. Your employees are your competitive edge.
    2. A minimization of collaboration and job effectiveness. With cliques, lack of diversity, teams bound by job descriptions and hierarchies, there’s no opportunity to pollinate new ideas, try new actions, make new norms. And without these, the company dies from its core.
    3. A continuation and exacerbation of problems. Accepted communication practices get factored in to the culture and become built in forever, taking failure along for the ride and causing fall-out to become normative. A well-known global software company I worked with saw no problem with treating staff and clients from a win/lose position. “I need to have control and make people do what I want. I was told to do this on my first day here.” It was endemic. Brought in to get the leadership team to work from integrity, I mentioned that Win/Win was the goal. They were confused when I said Win/Lose equaled Lose/Lose, which cost them trust and creativity and ultimately business. “But what do I need Win/Win for? I’m the one in control. They have to do what I say regardless”. Hmm. How’s that working for you?
    4. A colossal time waste. I recently went through a review of my state taxes due to a glitch in the system from 1994. There were 6 departments involved, and none of them spoke to the others. If I didn’t call the other 5 when something occurred, I got caught up in the lag between departments, dates, paperwork. By the time we were done we all hated each other. They asked what the rush was, that it usually took 6 months not 6 weeks (I bet!) and I just didn’t understand their system. Nope. I did not. Talk to each other! Make sure there are systems set up so everyone has the same data at the same time. In 2022 that’s simple, no?
    5. Unnecessary resistance: Without everyone’s buy-in, without everyone who touches the proposed solution having a say in the outcome, there will be resistance that costs unknown time, money, personal fallout. With proper communication up front, everyone is on board and has a stake in the success of the project. There is absolutely no need for resistance. If you’re getting resistance, you’re doing it wrong.
    6. Dimished results. Until or unless
      • the full set of facts are known and gathered from the full spectrum of resources,
      • the full complement of possible ideas are tried,
      • the downsides are factored in before completion,

a project will not be successful. Nothing else to say.

THE TOOLS YOU NEED

Here are the necessary skill sets for effective team communication:

Unbiased Listening. This sounds much easier to do than it is. Let me start by saying that nothing has meaning – no words, no dialogues, no sounds – until our brains translate it. Like the earth has no color – color is a function of the rods and cones in our eyes translating incoming vibrations – words have no meaning until the incoming sound vibrations get translated within our neural circuitry (I wrote a book on this: What? Did you really say what I think I heard?).

In other words, we only understand what someone says according to our existing brain circuits. Listening is a neural/brain thing: we can’t hear others without bias.

For those who are curious, sound enters our ears as vibrations without meaning (i.e. not words!). They become signals that seek out ‘close enough’ circuits already existing in our brains from some prior experience and get translated accordingly.

In other words, everything we hear gets translated by our subjective experience. Sad but true. And we think we listen attentively, but can only hear/understand what our brains listen for. Obviously this is where misunderstanding and miscommunication come from. People DO listen. They just hear what their brains interpret for them according to their historic, subjective beliefs.

The easiest way to fix this problem is to say during a conversation:

I want to make sure I understood what you said. I will say what I think I heard, and ask that you please correct me so I can get it right.

This way you can take away an accurate understanding without guesswork, even if you initially thought what you heard was accurate.

Gather data from every person or you’ll not have the full fact pattern. Too often we gather data from the folks we consider ‘obvious’. not necessarily the full set of stakeholders who are part of the problem and hold some very necessary data.

So many customer service initiatives are developed without the input of the customer facing folks and omit addressing real customer needs. How many times are HR folks omitted because, well, why use HR (except that the initiative will transfer, fire, reorganize people)? Think of everyone who will be touched by the final solution and bring them in at the start.

Ask the right questions. This one is a head scratcher because conventional questions are meant to gather data biased by the needs, language choices, and goals of the Asker and which subsequently gather very restricted data from the Receiver. Obviously, the odds are good that the question will be misinterpreted. So using conventional questions will only discover some percentage of an answer.

To manage this problem, I’ve invented a new form of question (took me 10 years!) I call a Facilitative Question. Different from a conventional question that seeks answers for the Asker, FQs lead Others into their brains to discover a much, much broader set of possibilities beyond the biases of the Asker. After all, retrieving good data is a mind-brain issue. It takes a while to learn to formulate as specific words in specific sequences are used so the brain peruses its unconscious. But once you learn how it changes the arc of all conversations.

Do a congruence check. Are all team members contributing? If not, there’s a reason. Are they feeling unheard, that their ideas aren’t ‘big’ enough? Do they feel powerless? Do they feel any gender, race, or ability bias?

All voices are necessary. Bring them in or you risk restricting all that’s possible, not to mention setting up the initiative for failure and resistance.

Only hold meetings if ALL members are present! Do not hold a meeting if someone is ill or can’t make it. It biases the outcome, causes resistance, and leaves out important ideas.

IS YOUR COMMUNICATION WORKING? I have some questions for teams to consider:

  • Is your team is functioning optimally? What would suboptimal communication look/sound/act like?
  • Do you have any vehicle in place to take a meta stance and discover problems without biases or defense?
  • What do you have in place to ensure you’re not operating with any racial, gender, or ability prejudice? It’s inherent and unconscious. How do you test it?
  • Do you regularly get resistance – either from your own team or during client initiatives? What are you willing to do to develop strategies that enable group buy-in from the full set of stakeholders (i.e. including ‘Joe in accounting’)?
  • If you regularly notice dysfunction, during an initiative or with less-than-steller results, what are you doing about it?

I believe this is a problem that needs focus, especially with so much change occurring in our organizations now. Make it a priority. Your productivity, creativity, stability and integrity depend on it.

____________________________________

Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. www.sharon-drew.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

June 27th, 2022

Posted In: News

On 5/13/2022 I received an apology from Gordon Hogg for plagiarizing my work. For several years he lifted my exact words from my writings that explain my original thinking on sales, listening, questioning, and training in his own articles, website, posts, and client offerings. Below you’ll find Hogg’s apology to me and the sales community. Note: it does not contain his continued belief that any published content is freely available for anyone to copy.

I’m heartbroken. Not only did Hogg crib my original IP that I worked tirelessly over hours, years, decades to write, invent, and develop, but he misconstrued my innovative thinking, specifically my Buying Facilitation® model, to be used as a sales ploy rather than the change management, servant-leader front-end I intended.

I ask that Hogg’s readers visit www.sharon-drew.com where I explain and offer the original material with the accurate intention.

Sharon-Drew Morgen

_________________________

 

To the sales industry:

Many years ago, I came across a number of books and articles written by Sharon-Drew Morgen who is an original thinker and inventor of systemic brain change models that are often used in sales as Buying Facilitation®. Sharon-Drew has spent the past 40 years developing, inventing, writing, thinking, testing, and trialing, to create Buying Facilitation® and get it published into books, articles and delivered in corporations. I was fascinated by the sheer brilliance of how Sharon-Drew articulated, and developed, models to assist the buying process.

There is nothing like it in mainstream business. I have been involved in sales and marketing for as long as Sharon-Drew has been developing her material. I have always struggled with trying to explain why salespeople are so out of sync with how their buyers buy but could never find the right words to explain why sales merely tries to push their products rather than enter at the other end to first help people go through their decision process to become buyers. I found Sharon-Drew’s words and insights could help me convey the right message.

Unfortunately, while developing a message to salespeople, I plagiarized Sharon-Drew’s words, slogans and phrases directly from her articles, books, titles and neglected to attribute them to Sharon-Drew. And unfortunately, I misunderstood the true import of her original thinking and misappropriated her concepts as an improved way to get people to buy, totally overlooking the change focus (i.e. instead of buying focus) and the spiritual nature of Sharon-Drew’s intent, to truly serve people in making the decisions needed to actually become buyers.

This misunderstanding caused Sharon-Drew’s decades of work to also be misunderstood and misappropriated as I used her exact words with a different intent. As a small example, I misappropriated her terms buying patterns, helping buyers buy, steps in the buying journey, traversing the 13 steps of change, workarounds and stakeholders, selling doesn’t cause buying, the ‘cost’ of change, change management. While some of these words are words in common usage, in her writing Sharon-Drew defines them uniquely, in a narrow definition of how brains make decisions and I used them in service to selling solutions.

  1. I wrote blog posts using her words and ideas directly from her blogs (including words that she used to define her Buying Facilitation® thinking, and the new forms of question and training she invented), including titles from her already published articles.
  2. I have misinterpreted her words to explain the failure in sales processes rather than their original intention as a model to facilitate systemic change.
  3. I plagiarized words and phrases in her change facilitation material as a way to overcome deficiencies in sales model rather than their original intention of facilitating the steps of change which Sharon-Drew has laid out so sellers can lead people through them before trying to sell.

I now wish to make clear that the goal of what Sharon-Drew has pioneered for decades as an original thinker and servant leader has been to truly (and singularly) facilitate change; when used with sales, a purchase might result as an output; when used in generic coaching and leading, a congruent, permanent decision results.

Plagiarizing any of her work without any attribution to get the attention of salespeople was wrong and for that I apologize. Sharon-Drew deserves to be properly credited. The writing, the developing, the inventing of the material I plagiarized has been Sharon-Drew’s life’s work. She often spends 50 hours writing the articles that I so carelessly plagiarized.

Sharon-Drew has invented additional brain-based models from which I also plagiarized:

  1. Learning facilitation: a new form of training that uses brain function. I plagiarized some of her writing and thinking when I mentioned how I would train salespeople.
  2. Facilitative Questions: a unique form of question that enables others to find their own answers and excludes information gathering. These are used in Buying Facilitation® to lead people through their change steps. I not only plagiarized her words used when explaining these, but I offered this new skill set in the form of Enabling Questions.
  3. The 13 steps of change: the stages everyone must go through before becoming buyers. I plagiarized some of her steps in both articles, posts, in illustrations as a tool to help sellers position sales pitches, rather than the brain change steps that facilitate good decisions.

While my site claimed to offer clients a ‘new form of training’ and a ‘new form of question’, those were taken directly from Sharon-Drew’s inventions. I will no longer be offering services re any of the original material Sharon-Drew has invented.

I also had a 73 page sample assessment on how buyers buy that plagiarized many of Sharon-Drew’s words and ideas directly from her books and articles.

I apologize for plagiarizing and misrepresenting her work. As I did this over the course of years, I hope the people who have read my articles will go back to Sharon-Drew’s work on www.sharon-drew.com and read the ideas as they were intended. Sharon-Drew’s concepts on helping buyers buy and Buying Facilitation® are wholly original and needed in the sales industry.

I am truly sorry, Sharon-Drew.

Gordon Hogg

____________________

Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. www.sharon-drew.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

June 20th, 2022

Posted In: News

If you are a therapist or coach, manager or consultant, you’ve been schooled to be a guide, a mentor, and accept the conventional one-up/one-down, inferior/superior power juxtaposition. People come to you for answers and give you the authority and trust to help them find solutions they couldn’t find on their own.

During a recent conversation with a coach who prides himself on Always Being Right! (Clients who don’t heed him are told to go elsewhere.) and wondering who would choose him as their coach, I began thinking about how Helpers go about helping, and why clients often ignore their suggestions.

I believe there’s an ‘accepted practice’ problem here: Helping professionals use questions to obtain information from clients to ‘understand’ the identified problem so they can then ‘help’ them find solutions.

But – and I know this is an unusual thing to say – conventional questions are so biased that they don’t necessarily help Helpers uncover accurate data, causing Helpers to sometimes unearth inaccurate or unhelpful answers. To make matters worse, even the way our questions are interpreted is suspect. Let me explain.

BEYOND THE BRAIN

So many of us – healthcare providers, sellers, coaches, leaders – truly want to help Others find their best outcomes. In this article, I’ll provide a much-simplified explanation of how brains cause behavior change, explain where much-appreciated skills fall short, and introduce you to new skills that can facilitate permanent change without resistance. And I’m aware that discussions about brain chemistry aren’t always on the top of everyone’s reading list, so I’ll try to make this painless to provide a few take-aways.

I’ll begin with the ‘big picture’ and explain how our brains cause us to do what we do, based on my decades developing systemic brain change models.

Simply, our brain is an enormous database that captures and organizes the data from our lives, stores it in circuits, and uses it as the foundation from which to make decisions.

Each of us operates from historic, unconscious, and unique neural configurations, stored as memory in 86 billion brain neurons that hold our history, our ideas, our values and from which our decisions and behaviors arise. Obviously, we each think and act uniquely. Obviously, no one else has access to our brain circuitry; no one else has our life story or history; no one else can ‘get in there’.

Technically change occurs when the unconscious brain components that cause and maintain the problem at hand get reconfigured. Behavior change is a brain problem.

HOW BRAINS STORE INFORMATION

I’ve spent decades unpacking how brains are organized to develop facilitation models that enable real choice. I’ve discovered that to achieve permanent change, Helpers must enable clients to locate the underlying components that caused the identified problem and reconfigure them in a new way that resolves the problem AND conforms with the unique norms of the individual.

And herein lie the problem: standard questions and usual listening practices steer the Other to where the Helper, using their own unconscious assumptions and curiosity (even though they’re sometimes accurate), thinks the answers are stored and possibly miss where actual answers reside.

Once I realized this, given I see myself as a professional coach, trainer, consultant, I began developing questioning and listening models that use brain change as their foundation.

I also discarded my role as a Helper in the normal sense of the word and become a Decision Facilitator, to facilitate Others through their brain maze to find the precise, unconscious, memory storage circuits where their own answers may be hidden. This not only truly serves but enables people to find the full complement of elements that must be reconsidered to easily develop new behaviors with no resistance. And it avoids the power imbalance problem.

WHAT IS CHANGE? NO, REALLY?

Change is systemic, not as simple as merely doing something different. Indeed, new behaviors are OUTPUTS that result from new neural reconfigurations that must not only be created but must integrate with what’s already there – the existing core values, mental models and Beliefs – or the new will be resisted. Too often, Helpers omit the entire systems element and merely try to change behaviors.

You see, because brains are set up as systems, and all systems conform to an agreed-upon set of norms, any change request represents a difference, a threat. This is the problem with noted change management models – they forget to align and get buy-in from the person’s core systems and merely attempt behavior change. It’s like trying to get a backward moving robot to move forward by explaining, questioning, and showing videos; the robot must be reprogrammed.

Without taking this into account, by trying to change a behavior by trying to change a behavior without getting buy-in from the system, people will resist, or not maintain, the change. Knowing a ‘good’ solution doesn’t mean it’s possible to implement it congruently or over time.

QUESTIONS AND LISTENING

To truly help, Helpers must facilitate Others through their brains to congruent, systemic change. Here are the reasons people have difficulty finding internal answers and making decisions.

Brains: The time it takes to figure out, to unearth and gather, all the criteria needed to make a decision that leaves the system congruent is the time it takes to act on it. No, they’re not dragging their feet; they’re trying to change congruently.

See, the brain’s 86 billion neurons are stored and labelled in ways that may be difficult to consciously access. In fact, words or ideas don’t even enter brains with intended meanings attached but as meaningless sound vibrations (Neuroscience actually calls words ‘puffs of air.’) which ultimately get turned into the signals that then get dispatched to circuits that will translate them into meaning.

The problem arises in the translation process. The neural dispatch unit (the Central Executive Network, or CEN) dispatches these incoming signals to a ‘similar enough’ set of brain circuits for interpretation. To make the process fast (It takes five one hundredths of a second for the entire process.) the CEN chooses the quickest route to translation circuits, almost always a frequently used superhighway that may only have a tangential connection to the original signals and intent.

Let me say this again in a different way: all incoming words get translated by whatever circuits the CEN chooses to send them to without our agreement or knowledge! And these circuits don’t always represent the best translation.

Most of us aren’t aware that our thoughts, realizations, understandings, are merely versions of what our brains have already translated for us. That means whatever ‘new’ enters is biased by our history, translated according to what’s already there, and has a hard time being accurately understood.

Unfortunately, curiosity-based questions meant to ‘gather data’, are restricted by the Helper’s assumptions. Sometimes Others uncover the exact data we need in order to help them. But sometimes our questions direct the client’s brain to an unhelpful answer, and something more valuable remains unretrieved.

To help Others find precisely where the necessary data is stored, Helpers must have NO assumptions, NO biases, and NO belief that we have anyone’s answers. All we need is to send Others to the right circuits where their answers are stored. And for this, conventional skills don’t work.

Listening: Given that listening is hampered by the ‘brain circuit translation’ problem it’s near impossible for anyone to listen without bias regardless of how well they ‘listen’. And it gets worse: The circuits that receive the signals from the CEN for translation mechanically discard the ones that aren’t an exact match….and they never tell us!

Net net, people only hear some fraction of what a speaker means and assume they’ve ‘heard’ accurately! Obviously, this problem applies to both Helper and client!

To avoid biases and misinterpretations, to help Others discover where their answers are stored, Helpers must listen differently and don’t assume they ‘understand’ what’s been said. I actually developed a process called Listening for Systems, which bypasses our assumptions and hears what’s intended.

If you’d like to learn more I wrote a book on the subject: What? Did you really say what I think I heard?.

Questions: This one is the most uncomfortable for Helpers. Conventional questions are formulated to elicit data as per the needs, intent, languaging, curiosity of the Asker. Given our clients listen unconsciously with subjective ears that may not match the Helper’s intent, or know where the unconscious answer is stored, it’s quite difficult to elicit accurate data.

To this end, I spent 10 years inventing a new form of question (Facilitative Question) that foregoes data gathering per se and instead leads Others to the brain circuits and memory channels to precisely where the appropriate data is stored. If you go to my site I explain how I invented them and provide descriptions and articles.

By posing unbiased, systemic questions that lead brains to appropriate circuits, by listening without assumptions, by trusting everyone has their own answers, we can truly serve Others beyond any natural biases we might have.

AN EXAMPLE OF DISCOVERING UNCONSCIOUS ANSWERS

The new job of Helpers is to begin with the assumption that clients may actually have perfectly good answers stored in some place where their brain isn’t looking.

Here’s a simple example of a recent coaching interaction. [For an in depth discussion of how, please contact me. Happy to discuss.]

A coaching client complained she was unable to get into her Witness, or Observer (Observer offers choice: a meta experience with a broad view and unbiased options), and too often responded inappropriately from her ‘Self’ place (No choice: an automatic response from a biased superhighway).

I began by suggesting she notice if she had any history of going into Choice/Observer. Turns out, she frequently went into Observer when her kids were little (A skill all of us have as parents, I might add, or our kids would rarely make it to adulthood!).

I then helped her recognize the unconscious triggers that brought her into Observer with her kids, how to feel/see the triggers in her body, notice how to make them conscious at the moment they went off, then we created a mind/body trigger to alert her to the need to redirect the automatic response and go into Observer. And from then on, she had a permanent ability to access Observer on demand.

HELPERS AREN’T HELPING

Unfortunately, this skill is not taught in coaching schools or MBA programs which continue to teach to ‘be aware’, be ‘open minded’, take a ‘different perspective’, ask ‘probing’ questions to ‘give the Helper the information’ they need to ‘help’. But as you now know, neither standard questions or conventional listening will always collect accurate information.

When Helpers try to have answers for Others, our track record is spotty: clients use some of our suggestions and ignore others because they may not have gotten to the core (and unconscious) factors that caused the problem to begin with.

And because our advice ultimately brings Others up against their own shadow, their own inabilities, their need to go beyond their own capability for help, they push the Helper away regardless of the length or success of the relationship. Inadvertently, because no other way has been developed to professionally help Others, we infantilize our clients.

I know that most coaches, leaders, managers, and Helpers truly want to serve Others. Please consider shifting your goal and learn new tools. I’m happy to help. I’ve developed new skills for Helpers (coaches, sellers, managers, healthcare providers, therapists) to enable folks to discover and create their own answers while reducing the power imbalance and bias, as well as learning tools to teach you how to listen without bias and pose Facilitative Questions. Please contact me in case you’re interested in learning how to do this, and we can all Help as true Servant Leaders. sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

_____________________________

Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. www.sharon-drew.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

May 9th, 2022

Posted In: News

Listening skillsThere’s been an age-old argument in the communication field: who’s at fault if a misunderstanding occurs – the Speaker communicating badly, or the Listener misunderstanding? Let’s look at some facts:

1. Speaking is an act of translation: putting into words what’s going on internally (the unspoken feelings, needs, thoughts) to enable others to understand what we wish to share. But the act of choosing the words is largely unconscious and may not render an accurate representation to our Listener.

2. Listeners translate what they hear through a series of unconscious filters (biases, assumptions, triggers, habits, imperfect memory) formed over their lives by their:

  • world view
  • beliefs
  • similar situations
  • historic exchanges with the same speaker
  • biases on entering the conversation (like sellers listening exclusively for need).

To make things worse, sound enters our ears as electrical and chemical vibrations (Neuroscience calls words ‘puffs of air’) that are turned into signals in our brains and then get matched for commonality with existing circuits that carry ‘similar-enough’ signals. Then our brains translate what’s been said according to our history, leaving us ‘hearing’ some fraction of what was intended.

Not only are we inadvertently listening subjectively (the only way we have of interpreting meaning is via our existing circuits), but because the brain discards unmatching signals without telling us, there’s no way of knowing what parts of what’s been said have been omitted or misconstrued.

So we might hear ABL when our communication partner said ABC! And because our brain only conveys ABL, we have no way of knowing it has discarded D, E, F, etc. and have no option but to believe what we thought we heard is accurate! No wonder we think others aren’t hearing us, or are misunderstanding us purposefully!

3. According to David Bellos in his excellent book Is That a Fish In Your Ear?, no sentence contains all of the information we need to translate it. And this, too, obviously provides a great opportunity for our brains to make stuff up…without telling us.

Obviously this results in impediments to hearing others accurately: even when we want to, even when we’re employing Active Listening, or taking notes, the odds are bad that we will accurately understand what our communication partner intends to tell us and instead hear a message we’ve unintentionally misinterpreted.

From the Speaker’s standpoint, Speakers may not be using the best languaging patterns for our communication partner, and wrongly assume we will be understood.

WHY WE CAN’T UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER

Since communication involves a bewildering set of conscious and unconscious choices, and so much activity is going on automatically in our brains, sharing mutually understood messages becomes dependent upon each communication partner mitigating bias and disengaging from assumptions. Each communication partner, it seems, can take responsibility, albeit in different ways.

While researching my book What? Did you really say what I think I heard?  I realized that the responsibility for effective communication seems to be weighted in the court of the Speaker. But given that Listeners are at the effect of their unconscious brains regardless of how carefully a Speaker chooses their words, what must Speakers do to be understood accurately?

It’s an interesting problem: since Listeners believe what they think they hear is accurate, they have no idea what the Speaker intends to convey and there’s no way they can know if what they’ve heard (through the fog of circuits, neural pathways, misunderstandings and misinterpretations) is accurate.

So, to answer my original question, because the Listener has no way of knowing what’s been mistranslated, the Speaker is the one who must notice through the words and verbalization of the Listener’s response, as well as body language where possible, that the Listener has misunderstood, and choose a different way to convey their intent.

If it seems the Listener might not have understood fully, the Speaker can then just say,

“Can you please tell me what you heard so I can say it better in case there’s a misinterpretation? It seems to me you might have misunderstood and I want our communication to be accurate.”

That way you can keep a conversation on track and not assume the person just isn’t listening.

And, if as a Listener you want to make sure you heard and responded accurately, ask:

“I’d like to make sure I heard you accurately. Do you mind telling me exactly what you just heard me say so I can make sure we’re on the same page going forward?”

Using these tactics, there’s a good chance all communication partners will go forward from the same understanding.

Here are the questions we must answer for ourselves in any communication: As Listeners, how can we know if we’re translating accurately? Is it possible to avoid bias? As Speakers, are we using our best language choices?

As you can see above, the odds of communication partners accurately understanding the full extent of intended meaning in conversation is unlikely. The best we can do is figure out together how to manage the communication.

__________________________________________

Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. www.sharon-drew.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

May 2nd, 2022

Posted In: Listening, News

In 1996 my sister called to say she’d made an online purchase. I was surprised: in those early days it was not only difficult to search for anything on the new internet, there wasn’t much to search for. Certainly, purchasing anything seemed illogical – we had no way of knowing if ‘secure lines’ were, well, secure. Curious, I asked my sister to explain her decision process.

J: I needed a simple Y connector, and decided to see what online purchasing was all about. This was my test case. I found three companies with the exact same product at the same price.

SD: How did you choose which company to buy from?

J: Since the price and products were identical, I decided I’d trust the company with the best customer service so I’d be cared for if I had a problem. Because none of the websites mentioned customer service, I decided to call them and ask. The first company kept me on hold for 23 minutes before I hung up. The second call put me straight through to a voice message. A sales rep answered my call in the third company, asking me if I had questions. So it was an obvious choice. There was only one company that took care of me.

I then realized there were three problems with the current (1996) search capability:

  1. Site visitors had only a haphazard method of finding what they wanted;
  2. People occasionally didn’t recognize their unconscious criteria for resolving their query, even if they could find what they initially thought they wanted;
  3. Sites could only meet the search criteria imagined by the site designers, sometimes overlooking criteria sought by visitors.

In other words, if people were happy with the information they were able to find on a site, they were satisfied. For those folks not entirely clear what they needed, couldn’t find the page matching their search criteria, or had needs outside the obvious, there was a probability they couldn’t find what they really needed and would leave the site.

MY SEARCH INVENTION DEFIED THE NORM

I decided to create a tool to help site visitors become aware of the unconscious criteria (i.e. not just the information, but the subconscious, essential criteria they needed met) they needed and be led directly to the page(s) that offered the exact answers they sought. And in 1996, no one else was thinking this way.

Enter Hobbes. With a few sequenced Facilitated Questions (a new form of question I invented that directs brains to specific circuits that hold their unconscious criteria), a simple backend tree, and carefully culled choices of criteria-based options, my search tool Hobbes helped site visitors discover their real criteria and led them to the one or two site pages that met their needs.

For those who chose to use Hobbes, this would keep them on the site and help them become buyers or satisfied visitors. It would also cause companies to do their homework to learn what visitors truly needed and add those responses to their sites.

Of course, this was way outside of normal, especially for 24 years ago – 3 years before Google search came out. Yet 54% of site visitors on my site used it.

I tried to get funding for it and was offered $15,000,000 by the only woman VC in Silicon Valley IF I could find $1,000,000 from someone else (a man). Nope. Only 1% of women were receiving funding in those days.

Not to mention I kept hearing that no one needed a search tool for ‘criteria’. Silly idea, I was told countless times. No one makes decisions from criteria.

And the concept died.

PERCEIVED WISDOM REIGNS

You all know what happened next. Google search entered and the rest is history. But about 15 years later, the folks at Bing called, saying they’d heard about Hobbes and could they buy it. I shared the original site design. Yay! Loved it. ‘We could start using this immediately! What a great idea to help people uncover their unconscious criteria and help them make decisions quicker.’

But then I got a call back the next day: the team hated the concept. ‘Why would anyone want to use a search tool that didn’t seek out information the way Google did?’ It was the accepted norm and ‘no one would want to do anything different’.

And so the perceived wisdom has prevailed, and now the whole world accepts the one way we’ve been offered to search the net. Imagine if we had choices.

WHO AM I? AND WHY DOES CRITERIA MATTER?

Before I continue my story, let me stop for just a moment to give you a thumbnail sketch of who I am.

When I was age 11 I recognized that I think differently than others (I was diagnosed with Asperger’s when I was 61, explaining why my way of making sense of the world – in systems – provided me a more holistic understanding than folks with standard brains who think sequentially.). By experiencing several ‘strands’ of awareness simultaneously, it was obvious that to make a decision on anything required a prioritization of my brain’s hierarchy of values, my criteria.

Wanting to show up as normal, I began what would become my life’s work: coding the systems involved with how brains cause us to make choices; I figured out how to sequence the sequence steps of decision making that match our unconscious belief-based criteria, and cause us to do what we do and think what we think.

Since then, I’ve used my understanding of brains, systems, and decision making to develop several original models that fac ilitate systemic brain change:

  • I invented (and wrote the NYTimes Bestseller Selling with Integrity on) a wholly new model Buying Facilitation® for sellers to use to facilitate the Pre-Sales, change management end of buying decisions that closes 8x more than using sales alone;
  • a new way to listen that avoids bias;
  • a new form of question that leads brains to unconscious criteria for efficient decision making;
  • a model for coaches and leaders that leads people through the steps their sequenced steps of decision making to make change efficient;
  • a way for folks seeking permanent behavior change to change their brain circuits.

All of my models are outside the box, outside of mainstream, and provide innovations in several fields. And as with Hobbes, because they go against perceived wisdom, I’ve often struggled to find folks willing to adopt them even when they prove, in controlled studies with major corporations, to be more successful than the standard models.

Success, it seems, is not the criteria. Innovations – as wonderful as they’re made out to be – are not accepted readily: they buck the system, go against the norm.

WHAT IS PERCEIVED WISDOM AND WHY DOES IT MATTER?

My Hobbes story provides a background for my newest grumble about innovation and how normalized thinking limits our worlds, rules our assumptions and restricts creativity.

I’ll begin with my definition of perceived wisdom. PW is another way of saying ‘the norm’, the accepted myths, practices, ideas that constitute the immediate assumptions we make without questioning them. It’s the accepted convention, the ideas we’ve used to set up our lives, our thinking, our work environment – our internal, idiosyncratic systems or rules and history and expected behaviors.

PW is perpetuated in every sphere of our lives. We learn it as infants and it permeates our education, cultures, religions, what we buy and wear, who we marry and where we live.

Our thinking, our behaviors are often based on accepted norms that have become ubiquitous: * Do you avoid white after Labor Day? (Silly) * Do you feed a cold and starve a fever? (Wrong) * Calories-in determines weight (proven false). * Behavior Modification works to help you lose weight, exercise, change habits, yadayada. (There’s no scientific evidence anywhere that it does, plus you can’t change a behavior by trying to change a behavior) * Do you fail to display a contact number on your site to collect names for marketing outreach – assuming people will fill out your form and accept your spam? (Thereby turning away folks with real interest who refuse to fill out those things.) Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. I once asked my mother if she nursed me. ‘I would have, but everyone said it would harm you. And now I’m sad about it.’

PW meets our foundational criteria of belonging: it offers comfort, safety, absence of uncertainty, and no risk of encountering scorn or derision. And because PW is aimed toward the middle of the road (where, according to the late, great, Molly Ivins, only yellow stripes and dead armadillos exist), we spend our lives unwittingly maintaining and recreating a specious status quo that causes us to lose our uniqueness.

PW keeps us locked in. Our language, our conventional assumptions, keep us like gerbils, going round and round the same ideas and conventions regardless of their success or failure. So

  • in sales, a 5% success rate is acceptable, and the matching 95% failure rate is not even mentioned – folded in to the costs as a ‘given’ because the model itself is flawed and hasn’t been reconceived in a century;
  • in leadership and coaching, the assumption that the person ‘in charge’ has the knowledge that Others must conform to, and their resistance is something to be managed, resulting in a 97% failure rate;
  • in training, that continues to use information-in – a model that doesn’t integrate with brains and causes an 80% failure rate.

Even great Harvard thinkers like Chris Argyris and Howard Gardner have written books on managing resistance, using the baseline assumption that all change involves resistance. Nonsense. Another faulty fact we’ve normalized and have cost us dearly.

While we think our personal beliefs are specific to us, they are invaded by the PW in the customs we live in. It’s where we get our racial biases, our assumptions about education, class, age, history. We’re so hamstrung by PW we’ve become tribes, where our politics and beliefs keep our ‘team’ on the good side and we hate everyone else, like sports fans.

And since it’s endemic we find no reason to reject it, even going so far as passing down these baseless concepts through generations and unquestioningly resisting anything that’s different. But worst of all, it restricts our creativity. Indeed, from health, to sex, to climate change and politics and relationships, almost every area of life is circumscribed by PW. It’s pernicious.

THE PERCEIVED WISDOM OF CURRENT SEARCH CAPABILITY

How PW restricts our worlds is a huge topic, involving our health and healthcare system, our financial system, the environment, education, privacy – the list goes on. But because the topic is so important, I’m going to show you how limited we are in one sector – internet search – and how our worlds get shoved into tiny vessels as a result.

To begin, PW has kept our search use hamstrung, a vehicle to monetize our use and restrict data. PW assumes, even expects, our personal data will be extracted to send spam.

It didn’t start out that way, but as monetization and demographic compartments became ubiquitous, we don’t even notice. Most of our online interactions are now suspect: even simple searches lead us to knowledge selected by algorithms that contain us to the demographic we’ve been thrust into, causing facts to seem like fake news.

Our use of Google as a search engine is ubiquitous. This company, more than any, determines what we read, the information we have access to (the full range of data available only after dedicated search and rescue), the news in other countries. Even scientific facts are fed to us according to where we live, who we vote for, what we read.

And here’s the worst part. Google’s standard monetizing procedures tag us into a demographic and sells our personal data to thousands of advertisers who spam us. Rarely do we find the full range of possible solutions, answers, or ideas. I recently was led to a site that seemingly had the data I needed only to receive a phone call WHILE I WAS STILL LOOKING AT THE SITE from a sales person FROM THAT SITE who wanted to sell me something!

Surely we should care about accurately nourishing our curiosity without fear of spam and Robo calls.

THE MISSING VOICE ON THE INTERNET

One other aspect of PW bugs the hell out of me, and that might supply answers to my ‘whys’: Have you realized that men – the male human of our species – designed, developed, and generated the internet and social media – and continue to do so? The PW is the male view of the internet; we use it (and it abuses us) by the requirements, the criteria, of men. And we all buy into it.

How different would it be if women’s voices and ideas – currently a tiny fraction of the design of the internet – had been involved in the creation of our technology? Has the male viewpoint become so much a part of our culture that we all just assume that’s the way it is and should be (PW), and never stop to consider the results if women played their representative percentage in designing it?

Seriously: how would the internet or social media be different if it had been designed by women? Or designed by 50% women? Or designed in equal measure by people of color, people from different cultures, people of different levels of education. We’ll never know. What we do know is that the internet is the Perceived Wisdom of White Men in Silicon Valley. And we’ve normalized it as being The Way It Is.

WHAT COULD BE DIFFERENT

We’d like to believe that the internet and social media are the glue that stimulates the flow of information around the world. Yet we don’t have full access to it and it’s vulnerable to manipulation. Why have we come to accept this? Why is it ok to have our curiosity monetized? Why is PW so deep-seated that we sit back and allow it? Where are the voices that scream in the empty space where new ideas and creativity and innovation once lived? Are we all that lazy? Or don’t we care?

I can’t believe that people with terrific ideas – innovators! –  aren’t grousing as I am. Yet none of us are doing anything about it. Why do we put up with this? Is our criteria for belonging so fierce that we’re willing to give up our personal criteria to be all we can be?

I wonder how search would have been different if Hobbes (or something like it) were one of the search tools we all had at our disposal – the ability to freely search for what we wanted to know, plus the ability to make sure our criteria were being met on each site we visited.

And I wonder why companies aren’t putting service, putting people, before data extraction. Site designers are now inundated with requests to add ‘questions’ to their sites that allow them to grab data to send out god-knows-what. Always trying to push, to sell, to influence; always outside-in, using the criteria of the sites about pushing data enough times to instigate a buy.

The internet and search are now normalized, locked in place by our groupthink, maintained by the needs of Silicon Valley. But there must be a way we can find solutions that are both ethical AND make money. The internet, search, can be used for problem solving, not divisive rhetoric or monetization, for collaboration instead of discord. And yet we shame people who tell the truth because they don’t follow PW.

What if our companies shifted their criteria toward excellence, and sought to make money the old way, by offering great solutions and service. Why wouldn’t sites want to spend their time/energy proving to site visitors they’re trustworthy, creating companies people want to engage with – facilitating user service instead of data extraction? What if the company criteria were integrity: to help visitors be served. I, for one, immediately disengage from sites trying to pull data from me.

Our perceived wisdom is faulty. And until we begin thinking differently and stop acting as if PW is true, it cannot change and we will not readily accept innovation.

WHY GO BEYOND PERCEIVED WISDOM?

Of course, going outside the box is hazardous. After recognizing the craziness of PW in several industries, I find myself writing articles yelling “But seriously! You have no clothes on!” and getting beat-up on, ridiculed, ignored and made stupid. But disputing PW is vital:

  1. Obviously, there’s nothing in the middle of the road except yellow lines and dead armadillos. Who would want to be there anyway?
  2. New ideas can’t come from the middle. New ideas always come from the ends.
  3. There’s no debate, curiosity, creativity, free expression in Perceived Wisdom.
  4. Things change. Time, ideas, technology culture. Wisdom must change too or we stagnate.
  5. Perceived wisdom is linear. Real life occurs in systems.
  6. Perceived wisdom is what u get when everything is thrown into the middle and becomes moderate enough to please most. Vanilla.

New ideas come from the ends – ends that are loud enough, insistent enough, and interesting enough to push into the middle, eventually change, and become part of, the PW. But getting there – the journey – is the creative part. And those of us willing to take on the job must have very tough skins. Instead of our criteria being comfort, we must shift our criteria to truth and integrity, collaboration and serving.

What, exactly, is so powerful about perceived wisdom whole industries (healthcare, sales, coaching, leadership) prefer to suffer failed strategies rather than add anything new to ensure success? What would we need to believe differently to be willing to question our long held assumptions? How can we tell if a long held assumption is wrong, or incomplete, or could be expanded, or worth thinking of something different? And how would each of us need to be different to be willing to hear fresh ideas and new voices that seemingly conflict with all we think we hold dear?

The good bit is that going against the norm is fabulous. I’ve been doing it for many decades, and the rewards make up for the pitfalls. I urge anyone with original ideas, passion for truth, and a hunger for diversity, creativity, and integrity, to shout that the perceived wisdom is wrong, and put forth

  • Diversity of ideas,
  • Fresh ideas from different cultures, ethnicity, countries, educational backgrounds,
  • True creative thinking that pushes industries (sales, coaching, leadership, listening, change) to new vocabulary and (slowly slowly) new thinking,
  • Expanded possibilities for innovation,
  • Ideas that inspire other ideas that wouldn’t have otherwise been stimulated.

If our criteria is for better, more authentic ideas, for equality and integrity, we must go outside PW where innovation comes from. PW is merely the group/tribe acceptance of the status quo that has been standardized by the masses. Let’s all be innovators; let’s all shout out new truths and challenge the norm. And let’s all listen to the dissenters because they may be shedding light on new truths.

Let’s discuss this. I’m happy to discuss should anyone want to contact me. Sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com or 512 771 1117.

______________________________________

Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. www.sharon-drew.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

April 25th, 2022

Posted In: Communication, News

I live on a floating home on the Columbia River, north Portland, OR, with an intimate connection to the river: I have two decks – on the river side and on the ‘lagoon’ side – from which I launch my kayak, welcome friends with boats, share a beer or two with visitors, sit and meditate in the early morning, swim.

My house has dozens of 5’ tall windows that admit the light reflecting off the water year-round, so regardless of the season (the weather being unpredictable here in the Pacific Northwest), I have light all around me.

The weather is certainly a factor in our daily lives. Temperatures generally range from 40-80, with drizzle and rain much of December through March and occasional explosions of sunny days so we remember. Spring is variable, and mythically glorious in summer and fall.

It’s mid-April now. Three days ago it was 75. I sat with a book on the sparkly river as an occasional duck or goose swam by, some looking up to see if I had food (Feeding them means they’ll not only return for years but tell their kids and grandkids that I’m a mark. My neighbor Bob used to feed them daily. The day he missed, one spoiled goose went right up to his door, honking, honking, steadily honking, honking for an hour. I had to call Bob to come home and feed him to keep me from going crazy.). Yesterday a sea lion swam by. Huge.

I assume the sun is considering returning full time. But not today; it’s snowing. And if I don’t look outside to see the white fluff now on the decks, I can remind myself that yes, really, it’s becoming spring.

MY FRIEND

If past years are prologue, my duck friend should be by soon to lay her eggs in one of my tall river-side planters. She’s comfortable with me by now. When I come out her little head rises up, one eye checking that it’s me, then descending back into her job. But when I have guests she’s unfamiliar with her head stays up, alert, watching, aggressively observing, protecting.

Every night I check on the eggs around 8:00 pm when she goes out for food. Two summers ago a raccoon ate the 10 eggs about a week before they were ready to hatch. I found my agitated friend swimming back and forth, back and forth for days looking for her ducklings. I felt helpless. Like I was a bad grandmom.

But last year she had nine ducklings. Nine! It’s always sweet hearing them chirp when they hatch. I watch as she gentles them into the water, guiding them first in more shallow water, then after 3 weeks onto the river itself, always keeping them safe. It fascinates me how she knows what’s going on behind her; there’s always one who wants to do its own thing, but Mom is quite strict. Nope. In the line with your sibs!

Watching them grow – those that don’t get eaten by other river creatures – is fun. Last year 7 of them survived. They all came ‘round to see me when they were grown, all the same size as mom, all ready to start their own families. I felt proud.

FLOWERS EMERGING

On my daily walks these days I see new flowers appearing. The floating homes have garden pots now budding with tulips and daffodils. The town houses across the street have carefully tended, creative, colorful, postage-size gardens: some wild, some manicured, some small Zen-scapes with stones and water features. Pretty.

Daphne scents the air. The pink and magenta magnolia petals open wider daily to show off their different hues. And that purple ground cover – no idea what it is – is all over. Rose buds. Hyacinths. Pinks, purples, yellows, lavenders. Sweet explosions of color and smell. Spring is emerging.

People outside walking, leading leashed dogs that would much prefer to run free. Everyone smiling. Boats returning. Small boats, some with couples, families, dogs; party boats with music blaring, sometimes the bebop of Ella or Billie, sometimes (unfortunately for my ears) the thump of techno.

Paddle boards with young folks, small dogs on the front; kayakers floating in pods of friends. I do an early morning paddle before the river gets busy and let the downstream current carry me along as I listen to the birds and the silence. Feels like I’m in the arms of something Bigger. A moment out of life. A joy.

Yes, we’re on route to being sunny and warm and sparkly and vibrant for the next 6 months, emerging from our wet hibernation. And I’m delighted.

______________________________________________

Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. www.sharon-drew.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.    

April 18th, 2022

Posted In: News

Next Page »