Teach them to fish or fish for them

Here’s a re-post of something I put up at my other blog.  There’s no link back, just a re-post.  Call this moving content from the old to the new.  As I got only minor comments on this last time I posted it, I’ll hide it behind the fold so if you really want to read it you can find it, but if you don’t it won’t hurt your scan of the page.  Enjoy:

We know there is a powerful difference between ordering and teaching, and we often sum it up in the old proverb: “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today.  Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime”

Yet, do we know well enough when we are fishing versus teaching?

If we did know well enough, I think we’d observe ourselves fishing less (issuing fewer orders). Or, from the other perspective, if we’d learned to fish from more of our past lessons, why are we still often waiting around for the next day’s catch (our next orders) from our superiors?

Maybe we don’t well enough know when we are fishing or teaching, receiving or learning.

We know we are often doing what we think is teaching, but the amount of fishing doesn’t seem reduced. Could we be seeing ourselves as teaching when we’re really fishing?

You can tell me stories about times you saw someone else thinking they were teaching someone a lesson when really they were barking orders.  But, do you know when you’re the one looking foolish?

So we can see when others are fishing when they mean to be teaching, but we may be incapable of seeing that same problem when we do it ourselves.

To me, if others can see it but I can’t, then these others have a useful perspective I need.  How do I get that observer’s perspective on the situation?

I could I ask them for their perspective, a valid and solid option.  What if they are unavailable or their perspective is unreliable (sadly often the case with some of our mentors/advisers/superiors)? How can I, absent any outside help, reliably get outside my situation and observe it?

I’ve created a way to plot the interaction of the fisher/teacher perspective with the receiver/learner perspective so I can become the observer.  With this new coordinate system I can plot whether an action or a piece of advice, as proposed, is more fishing or teaching and will produce more receiving or learning.  The coordinate system and method are situation and observer specific and so far it works.

As I’ve been practicing for years how to observe the failures of the fisher/teacher versus the receiver/learner I’m skilled in maneuvering in the coordinate system. But, I don’t think you need years of practice to use the coordinate system, and method, to hack at a problem and come up with some other options.  Some say being able to determine the best course of action from a myriad of options is a gift.  Maybe some are more talented that others, but all, using this coordinate system can try to approximate the work that other do intuitively.

Whew.

Did that make more sense?

I’d love to know what you think.  If you read the patent application, know It’s not for the faint hearted, as I wrote the application in a furry of idea-induced adrenaline (with, I fear, my mind outpacing my writing ability).

But, reading the application with the story above in mind might get you someplace and I’d enjoy hearing where it takes you.

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