No Silver Bullet but maybe some golden fuel?

A silver bullet is the phrase we use for a simple and seemingly magical solution to a serious problem. It is increasingly well understood that there are no silver bullets when collaborating in complex situations. Rather it is a matter of applying appreciative mindsets and deliberative processes to reach enduring solutions.

Instead of searching for the non-existent silver bullet for our complex challenges, why don’t we do a better job at using something we already have packaged for free in every single one of us – the golden fuel of listening? Golden fuel is a term used by suppliers of straight vegetable oil technology whose job it is to convert diesel vehicles to run on 100% free waste vegetable oil. The outcome of using golden fuel is reduced environmental impact and less cost.

I am wondering whether the quantity and quality of our listening is collaboration’s golden fuel that can convert our business as usual processes to ones that deliver enduring solutions and like the vegetable oil, at less cost. Listening may indeed be the golden fuel that drives our collaborations to success.

However if you were to examine most meetings that take place all around the world every day, you might think that the power of listening is the biggest secret on the planet. We know that listening is important but how often and how well do we really do it?

Taking part in the Theory U learning process back in early 2015 gave me a deeper understanding of what it means to listen. Theory U talks about 4 levels of listening:

Level 1: Downloading where we reconfirm old opinions and judgments

Level 2: Factual listening where we notice differences

Level 3: Empathic listening where we see through another’s eyes

Level 4: Generative listening where we connect to an emerging future

You can track your listening quality by noticing the level to which you are listening each day. I was stunned to realize just how much Level 1 listening and how little Level 4 listening I was doing.

For collaborative processes to really shift into spaces that generate innovative and desirable outcomes, we as collaborators need to do a lot more Level 3 and 4 listening. Although this means changing some habits and making more time available, I truly believe it can be that golden fuel we are looking for.

So, whatever vehicle you choose to drive on your collaborative process, be it a Collective Impact, Social Labs, Power of Co, Results Based Accountability or a custom build by your community – make sure it is powered by that golden fuel of listening. Ensure that your vehicle is built with ample time and opportunity for deep listening between all participants. With this golden fuel your process will keep moving and who knows where you will drive yourselves? Chances are it will be to outcomes that serve and are desired by a diversity of interests.

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