On my journey of developing the ability to elicit inspiration from the minds of others and how to plant ideas I researched just about every method of communication and thinking processes there are. And while there are some many outstanding academic papers I was always interested in how they stack up in real life.
Perhaps an unnatural choice was interrogation techniques. “Enhanced” interrogation techniques are still widely used by the military, however, the effectiveness of this approach has been acknowledged as very ineffective.
When you think about it, it is obvious. If you are being tortured to tell everything to the capturers you will tell them exactly what they want to hear – this is not necessarily the fact or truth – but what they want to hear.
But there was Major Sherwood Ford Moran who was a WW2 interrogator who approached Japanese prisoners of war in a very different manner. His approach was so effective that it is still regarded as a classic interrogation document that all interrogators refer to even to this day.
His secret: there are no prisoners – “I am talking as a human being to a human being”
When we are talking about creating inspiration in the mind of another person we start from this point of view. We are not experts or trainers or business owners talking. Instead I am speaking with you as a person. Strip out all the roles in life that we hang on to that gives us a sense of place in the world. Focus on the person as an individual.
The second secret of Major Moran was that he strongly believed that everyone has a story they are desperate to tell.
If you are in any doubt whether this is true, experiment with something trivial. Ask someone about an illness they have had, or a pet, or their parents and wait for the stories to flow. Be careful when asking this even as an experiment – you could be there for a while!
When we plant the seed of inspiration into the mind of another it is not enough to let this organically develop. Imagine planting a rose bush in fertile soil and you never return to it. The bush will grow uncontrolled. Instead as their story grows think of pruning it, encouraging certain aspects of their new thinking that benefit you. You are, in effect, providing a structure for “their” inspiration to grow around.
The reason why I reference Major Sherwood Moran is because he faced highly hostile, scared and highly loyal prisoners. Yet he was still able to create a situation where he was able to extract key information from them to help the war effort.
What can a leader take from this?
Imagine trying to inspire a group of people who were hostile towards you – how would you inspire them to achieve greatness? Use “enhanced” motivation techniques? “Do this or you’re all fired!” or do you adopt an approach more inline with what has worked for myself, Major Sherwood and his cult interrogation followers and start by developing the human being to human being aspect of what happens next?