I've been reading "The Answer to How is Yes: Acting on What Matters" by Peter Block. In it he makes the case that we too often, in our personal or organizational lives, essentially say 'no' to new ideas by asking how at the wrong time. Instead of how? being the starting point, he argues that we should be asking questions that lead to deep thinking: is it the right idea?, does this fit with my/our passions? can this be the right move for our organization?, etc. I believe he's absolutely right; we must be fully open to new ideas in order for meaningful decisions to be made. Being open to new ideas doesn't mean giving everyone a voice, although that might be necessary. It means giving the time to ideas that they require to be fully digested, to be deeply explored. He says:
"Thinking, reflection, and going deeper take time and require us to get personal - to question our own beliefs, theories, and feelings. When we decide to set aside time to think, to reflect, we get nervous. The fear is that if we took the time for questioning, for thought, for introspection, we might not have what it takes to act or do. Ours is not to wonder, ours is but to do or die. Interesting message: If you question, you die." (75-76)
Where has our hurry come from? What has given credence to this philosophy that action is better than thought? He iterates the importance of affirming the 'inward journey' in the following passage:
"It is hard to imagine making any important change in life without an inward journey. Think of Christ going into the desert for forty days. It was in the desert that he dealt with his own doubts and temptations and from which he emerged having chosen his freedom and his destiny. It is in our own internal deserts that we remember what really matters. It is on the inward journey, taken over time, that we develop the capacity for intimacy with ourselves and with others, with the environment, and with the world. It is deciding that we are deep human beings with inner lives that defines who we are and brings our ideals back into focus. To put this on a schedule is to undermine the possibilities open to us." (76)
In the sections of the chapter that follow the above passages he explores the integral nature of slowness in making important changes and deeply exploring ideas. I know that this is a struggle in the time-starved culture that we live in and the efficiency-promoting businesses that we work with. However, I know from experience that people are respected and good decisions are made when we take the time to work through them with the patience and time they deserve.
Block, Peter. The answer to how is yes: acting on what matters. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2002.