QUOTES TO NOTE – AN INVITATION FOR REFLECTION, PART III. . .

The search is everything. –Robert K. Greenleaf

Good morning Gentle Reader.  I concluded PART II with four questions: Why do I serve?  Who do I serve?  How often do I serve for money?  If not for money, what do I serve for? 

Consider that there are questions to respond to immediately and there are questions to respond to after some time is taken to reflect upon them.  Then there are questions ‘to hold’ – or as the great German poet, Rilke suggested, there are questions to live.  For me, these four questions are questions to hold and to liveto live into. 

[AN ASIDE: Gentle Reader you might have noticed that I used two words, to respond, rather than the two words we generally use, to answer.  I have learned these many years that there are many more questions to hold and to respond to than there are questions to answer.]

Consider that responding to and living the questions involves (requires?) that I engage in a search.  Greenleaf ups the ante when he asks me if I search in order to find or if I search in order to search.  I have throughout these many years reflected upon this question.  About twenty-five years ago I had an insight.  Since then I have been watching and listening to individuals and groups while holding my insight.  Thus far I have found that my insight continues to be affirmed.  Here is my insight:

People think differently when they are searching to understand than when they are seeking to make a decision or take an action.

When the ‘search to understand’ is primary people’s thinking expands; their thinking broadens and deepens; their thinking opens pathways and reveals thresholds to be crossed.  When the ‘search to find’ is primary people’s thinking becomes focused; their thinking narrows and is less broad and often is less deep.  I am recalling the president of a company becoming frustrated with Greenleaf and yelled at Greenleaf: ‘I don’t want to think about it; I just want an answer!’

I remember James Autry telling his direct reports that in times of crisis don’t just do something, sit there!  He wanted them to think and explore (search) so they might respond rather than simply react.  I am thinking of James E. Burke who, during the Tylenol poisonings, spent more than ten hours with his team in a searching conversation and only then did they respond.  And as it turned out their response not only addressed the threat it also enhanced the publics’ trust of Johnson & Johnson.

Finally, I remember meeting a scientist many years ago, my Uncle Steve introduced me to him.  He spent most of his time simply searching – no ‘find’ to either guide or focus his search.  What emerged was a sticky substance that he applied to paper – just to see what would happen.  What happened was the ‘Post-it-Note’ and the rest, as they say, is history.

For me, many of my greatest insights and many of my most creative ideas have emerged as by-products of searching without a goal of finding.  How about you, Gentle Reader, how often do you simply search without a ‘find’ in mind?

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