Catalytic Thinking 102: Developing a New Class

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Catalytic Listening - as part of Catalytic Thinking As we announced in one of our recent eJournals, the Education team at Creating the Future is in the process of developing a whole new online curriculum to teach what had formerly been available only in 5-day on-site immersion courses.

Having just completed the BETA of Catalytic Thinking 101, we are about to begin the development of the 102 class in that 5-course curriculum – Catalytic Listening.

Catalytic Thinking 102: Catalytic Listening
Imagine a world where we humans naturally brought out the best in the people around us, in every part of our lives and our work. That is what Catalytic Thinking has the potential to do – not just in one person’s life, but in everyone’s lives. If the questions we all asked in our day-to-day lives naturally brought out the best in each of us, imagine what it might feel like to live on planet earth!

The practices that comprise Catalytic Thinking are intentionally crafted to accomplish that. And as part of our new curriculum, this second course – Catalytic Thinking 102 – is all about the power of listening for that potential when the people around us are dealing with the stuff of life. (The graphic above shows how Catalytic Listening fits into Catalytic Thinking overall. Click on the image to enlarge it.)

Catalytic Listening: Bringing Out the Best in People in Difficult Situations
Sometimes people are just being people – whether that is at a staff meeting or the dinner table. Then there are times when people find themselves in situations that are making them uncomfortable, unhappy, or worse.
     • Joe’s boss is being demanding.
     • Mary’s spouse is coming home from work later and later.
     • Bureaucracy in Liz’s workplace is making it impossible for her to do her job well.

To bring out the best in people when they’re dealing with challenging situations requires listening deeply, with the dual intention of meeting people where they are and opening the door to their potential to create positive results.

That takes not just learning to listen differently; it requires that we have a sense of what to do with what we hear! And in the case of Catalytic Listening, that “what to do” includes a practice rich with asking, listening, reframing and reflecting. In that way, practitioners learn to

• meet others where they are, in a way that allows them to feel heard and validated, and

• open the door to the potential of both the practitioner and the person they’re listening to, by uncovering what is strong and powerful, upon which they can build actions and results.

For the purpose of catalyzing people’s potential, it is not enough to listen so that people feel heard. The critical component is uncovering what is strong and powerful, because fixing what is wrong is just one small step towards reaching for what is possible. Through Catalytic Listening, we begin to tease out what those other steps might be.

This course in Catalytic Listening will provide an overview of the practice, and will then provide the opportunity to practice each aspect of the practice. During the class, participants will explore the following questions by experiencing them – not as a theoretical exercise, but as a highly practical one.

  • Why do people who ask for advice often argue with the advice you give them – or simply fail to do what you suggest?
  • What does it take to help people discover inner wisdom they didn’t know they had?
  • What does it take to transform fear and scarcity into possibility and potential?
  • How can one unpack what masquerades as “people talking about their problems” into positive forces – their dreams, their values, their strengths?
  • What does it take to reframe interpersonal conflicts, to replace venom with compassion?

Throughout our time together, we will explore questions such as…

  • What does “good” look like? What outcomes is the person seeking, beyond just solving the immediate problem at hand? What are their dreams (even if they do not dare dream them)?
  • What is working well? What are the strengths, assets, and resources upon which to build? What does it take to listen for these strengths (vs asking for them, i.e. “What are your strengths?”)?
  • What values are surfacing? What is important to that person? What does it take to listen for those values (vs. asking for them, i.e. “What are your values?”)?
  • Which questions empower people to find their strengths, values, and potential – and which questions unintentionally disempower people?

The Course
The content above is still being turned into the nuts and bolts of a 5-6 week course. We promise to provide details as soon as they’re ready. Here is what we do know so far about this next course in our evolving curriculum.

Catalytic Thinking 101 – Introduction to Catalytic Thinking.
This course will build upon the foundation built in that intro course. If Catalytic Thinking 101 is about bringing out the best in people overall, in whatever circumstances they find themselves, this course will explore what brings out the best in people when they’re dealing with stuff.

Practice and Perspective in Day-to-Day Life:
The ultimate goal of Catalytic Listening is that we be more effective catalysts for the potential in the people around us – including ourselves. For that to happen, participants will be encouraged to not only apply the skills they learn, but to practice, gaining confidence until those new skills become simply a way of seeing and being.

During the class, participants will explore and practice…

• Where does this practice fit for you? What will it take to build upon your personality, your life experience, your expertise, your wisdom? What will it take to apply this practice to your work and your life? Where are the points of confluence with how you already see things, and with approaches you are already taking? Where do you wish to begin practicing?

• What questions and practices would help you respond to any situation in a way that brings out the best in the PEOPLE?

• In a world that values efficiency over effectiveness, what is the value of taking time to listen deeply to the people we encounter? What practices might we use to incorporate that longer view of time into our work lives? Our family life? Our community?

• Which of our cultural patterns serve to bring out the best in each other? Which are counterproductive to that goal? What practices will help us do something different, to get the results we want?

• What practices would help us shift perspectives, to see through a new lens, to consider the potential in people we might have previously discounted or made otherwise counterproductive assumptions about?

• What would workplace practices look like that create and maintain conditions for people to be at their best? What would it take for any workplace to be that?

What to Expect
The following is just a taste of what you can expect when you participate in this online learning experience.

• Expect to be participating with people like you – people who believe that reaching for our uniquely human potential to create a healthy, humane world is practical and doable. Expect to have that spirit of possibility not only taken seriously, but nurtured and given practical tools for turning those “Pollyanna” dreams into reality wherever you work, regardless of sector or industry.

• Expect to learn both from the instructors and from your fellow students, and expect to share your own experience, wisdom and ideas, in a highly interactive environment (maximum class size: 6 students). Expect to form a trusting Community of Practice with your classmates, that will last far beyond just the weeks of this class.

• Expect to be taught and encouraged by instructors who are putting these approaches into practice successfully in their own lives. Expect them to share their experiences with what has worked well, as well as the places they have experienced difficulty, free of sugar-coating.

• Expect to be stretched and encouraged as you begin stepping into your own potential as a catalyst. Expect to have the class nurture the best in you, walking the talk of the practice of Catalytic Thinking.

• Expect to feel the “aha” of realizing why aspects of your work and life have, to date, been frustrating. And expect to learn approaches that circumvent that frustration altogether – approaches that are naturally and easily cooperative, joyful and filled with possibility for your work, your family, your community and your life overall.

• Expect every aspect of your work to be enhanced – every conversation, every task, every goal… everything. Expect that to extend beyond your work, out into the rest of your life.

• Expect to learn approaches you can put into practice immediately, the second each live classroom session is over. And expect to have practiced those approaches throughout the weeks of the class, to begin getting comfortable with them.

• Expect to be inspired, encouraged, reassured and energized. And expect to laugh and have a lot of fun.

At this time, we are confident the format of the course will feel familiar to people who have participated in the pre-requisite course, Catalytic Thinking 101:

• 5-6 weekly sessions of 3 hours each (the final session will be 4 hours)

• Small cohorts – a maximum of 6 participants in each class, with 2 co-instructors per class

• Pre-class reading, watching videos, listening to podcasts

• Classroom instruction and discussion will model the practices, to show what the practices look like in action, and for participants to experience the results themselves.

֍ Language traps will be pointed out, to find more effective language that fits within each participant’s life and environment. This is not about learning prescribed language; it is about finding words that bring out the best in each participant’s real life.

֍ Being explicit about WHY these approaches are effective, so that participants understand the thinking and can therefore replicate it (replication of thinking is powerful; replication of doing often not so much).

• Between classes, homework will include practicing in the participant’s real life, then discussion online with their classmates about what they are experiencing. Instructors will guide and coach during this online discussion and exploration.

• One-on-one coaching as needed with the instructors during “office hours” between classes

• Ongoing cohort support AFTER the class is over, as the participants remain connected online as a cohort.

• Post-class participation in the overall Creating the Future learning community of practitioners.

• Modeling the framework by asking each class, “What would support you in your practice, after the class is over?” (rather than making assumptions about what that might be).

Catalytic Thinking 102: What’s Next?
If you have participated in the BETA of Catalytic Thinking 101, first, we are so grateful to you! We learned so much from teaching this in BETA. And we continue to learn as we develop the evaluation questions for that 101 course, to incorporate our learnings from that 101 course into how we teach this 102 course.

Registration for the BETA of this course will begin shortly. We hope you will continue to be part of this journey with us!


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