Sharpening The Saw

27 February

In one Chinese restaurant, they were passing out postcards with proverbs.

One of them said: “A hungry man can’t see right or wrong, he just sees food.”

Similarly, when we are consumed by some problem, it’s hard to see anything besides a problem. When we are ‘inside’ the problem, it’s hard to analyze it. It’s hard to be creative.

We need to step out.

A famous educational scholar, David Kolb, proposed a model which describes how we learn. It is known as the Kolb cycle. The cycle starts with action. The next step is reflecting and conceptualizing on it. Then we create new actions and experiment with them. And finally, we return and begin a new and improved action. And from there, the cycle repeats itself.

What this model tells us is that performance is improved by stepping out of the performance mode and stepping into reflective, thinking space. We can start seeing right or wrong only when we stop thinking about “food.”

There is no way to get better without those pauses to reflect. In the words of Stephen Covey, it’s “sharpening the saw.”

So how do you create opportunities to learn from your experience? How do you establish that reflective space for yourself?


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