Yesterday Jon and I went on a long-awaited Saturday adventure. Our adventures begin with a destination in mind, while actively looking for side roads and the unexpected along the way. Encounters: beautiful Kansas scenery in the Flint Hills; a palette stimulating lunch at an eclectic restaurant; and, intriguing byways. There was our usual non-sequential, wide-ranging, random-topic conversation.
Then – a stop in a local art gallery proved pivotal. Not pivotal because we bought artwork. Not pivotal because it held art that spoke to us. Pivotal because we walked out saying that we didn’t understand what the artist was trying to communicate. Our adventure went forward. But 24 hours later, it’s the artwork that didn’t resonate that we’re still discussing.
The discussion continues because it doesn’t fit comfortably with our models of the world. We have a choice. We can dismiss it and return to our regularly scheduled life; or, we can wrestle with it. How do we intentionally engage what doesn’t resonate? Do we stop and notice things that are “closer than they appear?”
Some questions I’ve asked myself: What memories or stories come to mind? What emotions arise? Does this fit with other things that I’ve liked or disliked? The next time I design something new, how will this experience influence my creative process?
What adventures have you had that continue to extend your boundaries?
Imaging new maps
Flint Hills - Storm at Sunset
I like “clicking” with people in conversations – where it’s almost as if our brains are playing leap-frog. It’s fun being in sync. Now, new research from Uri Hasson of Princeton, highlighted in this month’s Harvard Business Review, demonstrates that successful communication results in a biological “meeting of the minds.”
With speaker and listener connected to functional MRI (fMRI) machines, the researchers demonstrated that the speaker’s brain and listener’s brain scans displayed widespread overlap or mirroring. Using follow-up comprehension assessments, they showed that neural mirroring increased as comprehension increased. When listener’s comprehension was highest, the listener’s brain activity appeared slightly before the speaker’s activity – meaning active listeners were able to anticipate what would be communicated next.
While this study was done without face-to-face communication (the subjects were inside of scanners), the researchers propose that face-to-face communication would create even stronger neural coupling. This due to the fact that mirror neurons discharge both when performing an action and when observing an action. Interestingly, neural coupling does not occur when hearing foreign languages spoken.
Speaking and listening are a shared function of two brains. Since reading these articles, I’ve been reconsidering effective communication. How do we work to intentionally use language patterns and words that are most likely to create neural mirroring and increase comprehension? In an organization or educational setting, how important is an agenda or pre-work for laying a common foundation for enhancing communication?
How does this impact your ideas about communication? What are the practical things that help you to be “in sync” in a conversation?
All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.
How do you experience individual moments throughout the day? Do you see what is around you? Do you incorporate what you see into your ideas and opinions? Do you let it move you? Is it fun!? Here are some things I’ve seen in the last three days:
A couple of photos from a Kansas road trip to deliver a client project today . . .
Summer Afternoon in the Flint Hills
- Marion Reservoir
I was thinking about an organization that schedules a monthly day of reflection for members of its leadership team. Each member gets one day a month – when they do not show up at the office, but take time for themselves. Through personal relationship, I’ve learned that all kinds of things happen on those days, from a long motorcycle ride through the Flint Hills to a morning spent reading at a coffee shop to an afternoon spent drinking iced tea and listening to music on the back porch.
The value to the organization? Incalculable. When these leaders come back refreshed, they can bring a better perspective on themselves and their role as well as on the organization. I’ve seen creative and inspiring ideas come from their time away.
In that spirit of reflection, today’s New York Times has an article about wandering minds. I was in interested to learn that our minds wander about 30% of the time. Here’s the summary quote:
“For creativity you need your mind to wander,” Dr. Schooler says, “but you also need to be able to notice that you’re mind wandering and catch the idea when you have it. If Archimedes had come up with a solution in the bathtub but didn’t notice he’d had the idea, what good would it have done him?”
I’m asking myself if I am being intentional about creating space for my mind to wander – time to wander when I’m observing it and discovering new ideas. Or am I scheduling my life full from morning-to-night with meetings and more hours that I care to admit writing and working at the computer? My guess is that I need to build in some intentional procrastination in order to achieve better incubation.
What animals or shapes have you seen in the sky today?
So that my readers won’t think that I’m abandoning my belief in the need for time for reflection, I share a few photographs from last weekend’s Symphony in the Flint Hills:
Symphony Banners II
Symphony in the Flint Hills II Before the Symphony
Tents on a Hill II
Symphony in the Flint Hills IV
See and read more about the Flint Hills: Renewal by Fire
Kansas Flint Hills Spring Burn III
Each spring Kansas Flint Hills ranchers use prairie fire to create renewal. The fire burns weeds and dead plant material, clearing the brush and dead grasses in its path.
Kansas Flint Hills Spring Burn II
Last weekend we watched as ranchers sowed fire across the prairie creating landscape that looks otherworldly.
Kansas Flint Hills Spring Burn I
And I pause to reflect on what fires are burning in my life and the organizations to which I belong. Do I spend too much time fighting the fires rather than allowing them to burn away the deadwood? What do I need to stop doing, to let go of, to turn away from so that new ideas, new life can spring up?
On our trip through the Flint Hills, a rancher told us that it takes about 4 days for new grasses to spring up, providing stunning green vistas. And on the Kansas flatlands, the winter wheat – dormant all winter – is growing again.
Kansas Prairie Spring I
And so, I reflect and revisit my dreams, hopes, and goals looking for signs of renewal in my life and in the wider systems of which I’m a part.