Last week I was privileged to be present when David Whyte addressed a group of leaders at Intel. Kudos to my colleague Lisa Marshall and to Intel's Business Client Engineering Division 'Mindful Engineering' series for making it happen
From the poet came the gift of this phrase; "Language against which the mind cannot defend"
It was a rich 90 minutes. It's remarkable to be with a poet who keeps himself connected and contributing to the corporate, technological world - an extraordinary human being.
He pointed out that such language is always based in vulnerability. And it comes, not from the strategic mind – the mind focused on what action might be best – but from a deep quiet. From the place most of us prefer to avoid: the one embraces our inevitable vulnerability. The example he gave was a question: a parent, having spoken somewhat thoughtlessly to a teenager, punished with shunting, reaches her with genuine humility, "Charlotte, what is one thing you'd like me to do less of, and one you'd like me to do more of'?” He was rewarded with uncrossed arms and a look in the eye. Something we in business must learn to do.
I believe with all my heart that only those who fully embrace the roots of commerce in vulnerability will make it through the current economic upheaval. In the Industrial Age, [short – perhaps 10 generations of the thousands in human history] business folk were happily tranquilized to believe that commerce could be secretive, and that one party could avoid vulnerability at the expense of the other. That dream is in its death gasps, at the effect of the Information Age.
Some good thinkers are onto the deep challenge this is for enterprises:
‘Having the answers' isn't likely; it's the questions that move us forward. My current favorite from deep quiet works very well to put an organization on track - it's the foundation for Core Promise:
What do people rely on you for, and what do you want them to rely on you for?
What will you do no matter what?
Try it – the mind cannot defend against the question.