How many times have you studied, thought, worked, conversed, or meditated in order to reach an "Aha!" moment?
It seems to me that we have a tendency to treat "Ahas!" as if they are a result. Yet when you look at them carefully, they signal a beginning; a sign that there may be a new path to pursue, something new to learn, or a situation to re-visit in a different way.
Some Aha! Questions to Ponder
1. When was your last "Aha!"?
2. Did it lead somewhere?
3. If so, where?
4. If not, why not?
5. Is it time to re-visit it to see what you might have missed?
(Almost) Everything I Know About "Ahas" I Learned From Fourth-Graders
When I got out of the Army, I went back to college to complete the
last few requirements for my degree. I also went back to being a
working--and paid--musician. Life was good. Except for the next "Aha!."
You see, at that time in the history of the universe, there was a
strange, quaint phenomenon known as dating.("Dating" was a very common
ancient ritual that involved asking a young woman to go out with you alone
to a movie, or a restaurant, or an event. The idea was that if you
could get to know each other better, you might want to continue and
develop an even deeper relationship. If this sounds strange and you
want to learn more about it, go to a garage sale, buy a 45 RPM
record (they look like oversized CD's with a big hole in the center),
and listen to the lyrics. Hint: you will notice that the lyrics rhyme.
Oh, and you'll need to buy a 45 RPM record player,too.)
Back to the related "Aha!" which was known as:
"Come in and meet my father"
Me with mandatory strong handshake: "Hello, Mr. ____, nice to meet you. "
Father: "Hello, young man (fathers do not utter
the actual name of the perceived weasel-disguised-as-a person. Now that
I am the father of a daughter, I understand the dynamic. But I can't
reveal it, otherwise I would betray the other
"Tell me, young man, what do you do for a living?" (This is a man-question to determine the extent of your slackerness).
Me: (proudly): Mr. _____, I'm a professional musician and I play at ______and ________.
Father again: (Continued silence, furrowed brow, followed by look of disdain).
Father, turning to wife while walking out of the room: "Ethel, tell him to have her home by midnight."
I learned that:
a. "I am a musician" was not a good thing to say, no matter how much money I made.
b. I would have to do something that appeared to erase my perceived weaselness and make me respectable.
I will be a teacher.
So I did a little stint at a Junior High School.
Aha! Working with 13 and 14 year-olds clearly wasn't going to do it
for me. I concluded, rather hastily, that every existing 13 and 14
year-old should be universally housed in their own country or
state--say, North Dakota--until they are 20.
Obviously, High School would work out better for me.
Aha! I apparently had a very short memory and forgot that, between
the ages of 15-18, Homer and Hemingway were completely overshadowed by
Heaving Hormones. That leaves:
Elementary School. Yes, but what grade?
Third graders still had "accidents."
Fifth graders were reaching puberty.
And if I were to be somehow elected President, they would soon be sent to North Dakota anyway.
Aha! Fourth grade.
. . .and Here Are The 5 Things I Learned About Business from Fourth Graders
The kids--and all of us at work-- show up each day hoping that we'll
have an Aha! experience. That it will lead to something new,
engaging, and satisfying. As a teacher, it was my responsibility to
attempt to create the conditions for that in the context of what was to
be learned. So I had to do five things:
1. Be crystal clear about the learning goal.
If I wasn't clear, the day didn't go well. Minds and bodies gravitated toward something that did seem clear. The world--even the world of fourth graders--abhors a vacuum.
2. Show them the connection between what they would learn and how it works in life.
If they couldn't see how "it" was real, eyes glazed over.
3. Understand each of the kids and how they learn.
Hands-on doers, Readers, Questioners, 10-year-old Cynics. They were all represented.
4. Create an experience that would allow #3 to be satisfied.
I always thought that this was the toughest part. How do you achieve
the learning goal in the designated amount of time with so many
different kinds of learners?
5. Manage the experience and follow up with each of the kids.
Once I put the activity in motion, I had to touch base with each of
the students, check out how they were doing, tell them how they were
doing, and then formally evaluate how they did.
Applied Management That Creates "Aha!"?
1. Managing starts with clarity. The time a manager spends
getting clear about what needs to be done will pay off in focused
effort from increased understanding.
2. The Manager is the Mediator of Meaning. Clarity is the
first part of the issue. The other part is taking the time to show
exactly how "what" you are proposing to do is directly connected to the
success of over-arching goals.
3. Managers Understand How People Learn and Work.
Intellectually, we all acknowledge that people learn differently and
work differently. Really successful managers take time to pinpoint what
those styles are and genuinely acknowledge their inherent value.
4. Managing Means Knowing How to Orchestrate the Experience. When to have a meeting or not
have a meeting; who needs one-on-one attention? What isn't negotiable
and what will work best with a full discussion? Is the objective really
achievable--at the level of quality desired--in the originally
designated timetable? Managers, go ahead and add your favorites to this
5. Managers Lead from Every Proximity. You'll spot a good manager out in front of the group; alongside of a direct report who is struggling; or standing in the back
of the room listening to a discussion and only joining in when
re-direction or a fact is needed. And everyone knows how they're doing
in relation to what's expected.
I hope this has sparked an "Aha" for you. If it did, by all means weigh in in the comment box below.
Graphic Source: A Perfect World www.aperfectworld.org
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