This from my engineer, researcher and Toyota Kata author buddy Mike Rother. Another learning experiment involving kindergartners. The Economist reported that proves (okay, indicates,) that when teachers, coaches and guides explain what you can do with something, it inhibits exploration and discovery.
It’s such a fine balance! In Perfect Phrases for Managers and Supervisiors, I refer to Management by Throwing Spaghetti Against the Wall. Perfect Phrases for Leadership Development is all about guiding people to make their own discoveries. I recently heard a Kimberley Clark manager talk about how they don’t share best practices because they want their managers and workgroups to find their own answers. They guide them in doing that, but it still takes longer. It also results in managers and workgroups that learn to improve processes on their own.
I work with coauthors. I have my own ideas of how the books should evolve, but I know from experience that if I say too much, their input is more likely to be limited to what they think I’m looking for. If I don’t over-direct, they are more likely to come up with things I would have missed.
So I hold back. I might ask questions, but if I do, they’re honest questions, not leading questions to get my coauthors to come to the same conclusions I did.
Of course, synergy comes from a side-by-side exploration. I have a head-start when I invite a coauthor to write with me on a book project I created. I like to give them a chance to do their own thinking and then I’ll share mine. Then we experience synergy – mutual discovery where we’re exploring side-by-side.
The Economist study did not explore what happens when the teacher and students discover what the toy can do together. I suspect if it had, the discoveries would skyrocketed.