An illumination of an idea popped into my head the other night: “Given what I know about the human mind, how I can be part of our fractured, fragmented nation’s healing process?”
Over the years, I have worked with organizations to help disrupt traditional thinking and generate new ideas. One of the tools I’ve used is called “brainstorming,” created by Alex Osborn in 1941. Osborn found that conventional business meetings, mindsets and attitudes were inhibiting the creation of new ideas and came up with a set of rules which opened up a group’s thinking and sparked new ideas.
The rules are:
• No criticism of ideas
• Go for large quantities of ideas
• Build on each other’s ideas
• Encourage wild and exaggerated ideas
He discovered that when these rules were followed, a lot more ideas were created and that a greater quantity of original ideas gave rise to a greater quantity of useful ideas. Quantity produced quality.
Participants’ natural inhibitions, which prevented them putting forward ideas which they felt might be considered “wrong” or “stupid,” were reduced. Osborn also found that generating “silly” ideas could spark off very useful ideas because they changed the way people thought.
Utilizing Osborn’s principle, combined with the talking-circle, Native Americans’ traditional way to solve problems, I propose establishing “Talking Circles of Imagination” as a way to remove barriers, allow people to express themselves with complete freedom – and heal.
Imagine forming “Talking Circles of Imagination” locally – or all across the country – in the workplace or community, where people of differing views (Democrat, Republican, Independent or any other political persuasion) agree simply to listen to one another.
The beauty is people in talking circles don’t have to like each other – and there’s no persuasion to agree or attempt at conversion.
The only requirement is to show up and do your very best to see and hear one another. Being present – without a win/lose agenda – is healing.
In all coaching, growing and learning, everything starts with a question. So the question proposed to the group would be some variation of the following: “Who were the most important people in your life that influenced you – and how do you pass it on to others?” This part makes us human to each other and creates an understanding.
3. Form a “Third Relationship”
The connection between two people forms what I call a third relationship; this third relationship’s success requires bonding by doing things together.
This also holds true for the success of “Talking Circles of Imagination.” Doing things together gets an individual focused on something outside his or her self and eliminates competition. Together, the group works on a third thing, something independent of beliefs.
Here are few suggestion that I have found useful:
• Provide outreach to community services.
• Donate labor, including general project volunteers. For example, many organizations work together in building housing for ‘Habitat for Humanity’.
• Bring, prepare or serve food at a homeless shelter, a clinic for those with addictions, a shelter for victims of domestic violence, etc., on one designated day.
• Clean up a park, trail, abandoned lot, camping area, beach or other outdoor site (removing trash, planting trees, building new trails, etc.); this will take coordination with both nonprofits as well as city, county and state governments.
• Clean up or decorate a room in a facility serving youth, seniors, patients, etc.
If “Talking Circles of Imagination” brings people together across lines of race, politics and class, it will bring to the forefront our common humanity and heal ourselves and the nation. All it takes is action.