The Power of Choice

I think it is fair to say that no one likes to be told what to do. Most people like to have choice over their actions; they appreciate autonomy and freedom to work things out.

Yet we have structured so many of our human interactions into systems where people ARE told what to do, what to think and sometimes what to feel. From workplaces to schools to places of worship, you will find examples of choice not being offered or encouraged.

At a young age, children express their need for self-direction as they rapidly learn the intricacies of being human like standing, walking and tying shoelaces. “I do it mine self” is commonly heard. Adults are less vocal about their need for autonomy, perhaps having learned over years to quiet the drive.

Why am I thinking about this now? I am reflecting on the palpable energy release that takes place when you do offer choice and encourage people to take ownership of their thinking and actions. And how this released energy fuels collaborative processes.

An activity I frequently do with clients is to get them to self assess the system they are operating in as being simple, complicated, complex or chaotic. There is no right answer with the purpose of the activity being to stimulate discussion and lead into a learning session about Dave Snowden’s Cynefin framework.

The activity is premised around the belief that people’s best thinking comes from their own experience, knowledge and wisdom. One of my favourite NLP beliefs is that “I am in charge of my mind and therefore my results.”

The simple act of putting the question to people and honouring their answers seems to galvanise a room. No longer are there a number of individuals sitting listening; instead this activity engages the participants. It transforms them into active people who have all the inner resources they need to succeed.

It is like switching from the pause to the go button.

The lesson out of this for your own practice of collaboration is to do whatever you can to ensure people have choice. This will unleash an energy that is crucial to collaborative practice.

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