Tonight I am having my class write a short paper that they will read in front of their classmates. I gave each of them 4 questions to choose from. The questions are not important, but what is important is how they respond both in written and oral format. Writing is intimidating for a lot of my students, which is really true for most adults. Writing means commitment. Putting your thoughts, ideas, and convictions down on paper means that others will see them. You can and most likely will be judged by what you write. Words are powerful, words formed by deep personal thoughts can change lives. Before Cultureinfusion was birthed, Bill and I talked about the risks associated with starting a blog. We both love to write and are both very emotional leaders. Not emotional in the sense of being wishy washy leaders based on how we “feel” that day, but emotional in the sense of really caring about those we serve. We knew that once we wrote a post about our views, experiences, or ideas some people would agree and others would not.
Over the years since Cultureinfusion has been around I have had several potential employees, current staff, bosses, and even company marketing staff approach me about things we have written. Not all the comments have been positive, but I will have to say each one has reinforced the purpose behind our blog.
So in this day and age where it seems like everything we do is broadcast everywhere almost instantaneously why is it still so hard to sit down and commit to writing? All over the world we Tweet, we chat, we instant message, share secrets on Facebook and the list goes on, but we hesitate to really exceed “blurbs” of thought. We seemingly disengage our real selves from those short status updates and before anyone (including ourselves) can really absorb what we said, we are off to a new thought. Writing a meaningful paper, constructing a thought provoking post somehow seems old school. I observe this with my students and even with those in the marketplace. We seem to be losing the ability to engage in thought provoking concepts. I might sound like I am being old fashioned, rebelling against progress, but stop for a minute and think about this. When was the last time you journaled? When was the last time you sat down and read an article or book and just breathed it in, let it impact your way of seeing the world?
What I observed tonight with my students was not only a real resistance to writing, but also a reluctant need if you will, to share what they wrote with others once it had been committed to paper. I could feel the tension inside them between sitting down to write and then the nervousness of sharing what they had written with their peers. There was a requirement by me to write, but a real pull from inside them to be heard. It bears mentioning that I am not teaching a writing course or even English composition. The course subject is really not important, strong written and oral communication will be the difference in their career success. This is not a post about advocating for more opinions. Opinions are not open ended. What I am suggesting is that we create more opportunities for those we serve to reflect on their thoughts. In turn we provide positive forums for those thoughts to be be walked out and what we end up with is a culture of intention. We stimulate a culture of innovation through the writing and sharing of ideas. As leaders, if we reinforce the need to be vulnerable in our ideas, celebrate success, and see failure as a path to improvement, we will achieve greater results. It is in the linking of thoughts and ideas that allows us broaden our worldview. I am reminded of a Thoreau quote that goes like this.
“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives. -Henry David Thoreau”