What Is Your ‘Burning Question’?

A colleague challenged me to think about  “What is your burning question?” Initially my response was – I don’t have one… and then I realized that I do. And I realized that I have sat with this question now for several years… and I have not come up with any answers.

My burning question is: “How do we build capacity within our organizational systems to value “others” in the global system to the same degree we value ourselves – our own opinions and those of our close network?” And I mean how can we value ALL others – every human being on the planet irrespective of where they live, what religion or nationality they are, what they do, what they believe, what they have (or don’t have…).

We are facing a major global crisis of overwhelming proportions and we need to find a way to leverage our human capacity for understanding and resolving this before we implode into a global war… I’m a people and systems ‘watcher’ and I have come to notice a number of things over the past couple of decades.

  • As human beings we tend to believe that we ‘know’ better than others how to do things, fix things, resolve things etc… Consequently we tend to believe we have the answers and somehow our solutions are superior to the way others would do something – particularly if the ‘others’ are from a country whose development is not at the same stage as ours… or their approach to managing situations is not a good fit with how I / we would do things.
  • As white North Americans we spend a lot of time talking down to others… and expecting them to be grateful that we are willing to tell them how to solve their problems…
  • There is a significant lack of empathy for others that particularly seems to be missing when we consider people who are different from us. And if that empathy is missing, how do we help people develop the empathy, respect and basic human decency that will help us believes that none of us are successful until all of us are successful? I don’t mean to suggest that success equals everyone in the world having the same number of televisions or a job that pays the same irrespective of where we live. But I do mean that people have what they need to live comfortable, secure lives – food, housing, education, healthcare, meaningful occupations, security and resources that will allow every human being to live without the fear that permeates much of our world today.
  • The status quo favours maintaining the inequities in the world today – it will take a serious investment of political and personal will plus effort, resources and understanding to make any level of sustainable change happen…
  • That as human beings we tend not to be willing to make those changes until something catches our attention and it gets personal…
  • If I don’t value your insights, experience, perspective and opinions then it is easier for me to dismiss your value in the overall scheme of things. Taken to the extreme I may even consciously or unconsciously decide that your life is not as valuable as mine…
  • For example – As members of ‘Western’ culture and ‘developed’ countries – if the AIDS crisis had hit Europe or North America rather than Africa – would our involvement in helping / supporting / addressing the situation be different? I am guessing that it would be seen as a major crisis with all of the resources we have being channeled into dealing with the crisis and the fallout…
  • If the Ebola crisis did not have the potential to threaten our existence would we find it easier to go about our daily lives because it’s a far away faceless tragedy…?
  • When we provide foreign aid to another country who decides what THEY need? Is it them? Or is it us? How can I know what you need better than you? – Particularly if there is minimal consultation….
  • What is the impact on individuals, groups and countries when they feel minimized or devalued? How is that influencing some of the negative dynamics in our world these days – things like radicalization, terrorism, pervasive, deep rooted conflicts and wars?

Most of us really don’t want to have to own our personal and national contribution to some of the major issues we are facing on a global level. However we ignore our contributing role at our peril. If we truly believe that the system owns everything that happens within it, then it follows that if we are part of the system, then we own what is happening… which taken to the next step means we also have an obligation to work to resolve it. If we don’t like what is happening in our system it is up to us as members of the system to work together to fix it. And since they are also members of the system, how will we work with the ‘others’ to create the change we need?

This may be a challenge as it also means that I need to accountable for the choices, actions, behaviours and beliefs that I bring to the system… And so do the others…

And I wonder – How well will I value your (or their) contribution if I fundamentally disagree with you on every level.. and if I find your approach intolerable?

There are more questions than answers in my mind these days…

The Conflict Resolution Workout!
1. Think of a situation which you struggle to comprehend… what is your burning question about it?
2. Take your ‘burning question’ from #1 and ask yourself ‘why’ is that an issue… Don’t let yourself off the hook!! (sometimes it’s easier to have someone else ask ‘why’?
3. Take your response to the Why? in #2 and ask yourself Why? to that answer…
4. Keep asking ‘Why?’ to each response you come up with until you cannot break it down any further…
5. Look at your deepest ‘why’ and reflect on what you have uncovered for yourself… what did you learn?

We rarely take the time to reflect on the fundamental questions that are resonating at our deepest core… and yet that is often where our best learning resides! Happy reflecting!!!

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