Dare to ask Why?


The second weekend of Knowmads just took place. This time, the complete Saturday was meant to focus on our own personal projects. As Knowmads is a creative business school with an emphasis on learning by doing, setting up a personal project is key to our learning process. There is a wide variety of projects in our class. Some start from scratch, just having an idea in mind, some already have an organization and want to improve something. Most of us start from the beginning. Our end goals depend on what we would like to achieve ourselves.

The week before this weekend, I had been trying to write a clear description of my project. All I managed to do however was to draw a mind map. It was difficult to set my mind to focus uniquely on my project, and I wasn’t quite sure where to start. This Saturday, Guus led us through different stages of a creative flower: Thoughts, images, words, actions, habits, character and destiny. All morning was spent writing down our ideas, expressing our ideas in images, writing down our wished results, thinking about first concrete actions we can commit to for this upcoming week and writing a manifesto. A total of two hours completely focused on our own projects, in silence. Well, ok, with some nice background music.

When I was sitting there, with my piece of paper in front of me, writing down all my thoughts, feelings and wishes, I also looked around to see all my teammates. All of them also focused on their pieces of paper. I felt it was a real luxury to have this time and space to fully put our energy in our projects. Sometimes, time purely meant for our project is all we need. A little bit of guidance can then be enough to get the ideas rise from the depths of our minds and have our passion fire us up again, filling our hearts with a feeling of trust in ourselves. Well, at least that is how it works for me. When I saw us all together having our focus on our projects, my heart jumped from happiness and gratitude.

For the first 20 minutes of focus Guus asked us to write down all our thoughts about our project, how do we feel about ourselves, about our project, what we want to do and why. Remembering the good advice I got a while ago from a wise woman, Lisi, with a lot of experience in setting up projects around special education in Vietnam, I picked the ‘why’ question to answer first. Lisi had told me that when she starts a project, she starts by asking everyone involved to answer the question ‘why’? According to her this is the most important question. Why we want or need to do this? Once we know the answer to this question, the answers to the other questions become very clear: what we need to do, with whom, when, how, where etc.

Answering this ‘why’ question Saturday morning was very empowering for me. It brought me back to my passion. It gave me confidence in myself. It also resulted in a slight change of focus in my project. The manifesto we wrote at the end of this workshop became one full of passion and confidence; therefore I will attach it below.

Sunday morning we had a workshop from Nguyen Vinh Loc about the art of people management. To my own surprise, this touched upon a subject that fired me up. People management for me relates to how to empower and make them thrive. I believe that a workplace ideally should be a place that nurtures creativity and brings out the best in people. Nowadays, more and more companies try to be innovative when it comes to creating the right spirit and atmosphere on the work floor.

Mr. Loc explained to us there are two approaches to people management: ethics based and rules based. In a group exercise he asked us to discuss what we thought would be the best model to use in a company. All our three groups decided on a combination of the two. For me, however, the question is not so much about rules or ethics or a combination. It seems too black and white of a thought pattern to fit the complexity of people management. It’s more interesting to think about what will make people thrive. Even though I enjoyed our discussion about this subject, the trainer’s perspective was still a bit too old fashioned in my opinion. He didn’t really share how he does it himself, so from his input in the discussion I got the impression he’s not very innovative. I could be wrong however, because of a lack of information. Moreover, he might be very innovative in this Vietnamese context I still know so little of. It was interesting to notice the rather dualistic way of thinking that seemed very present in the group. Something I need to be aware of.

The importance of critical thinking skills is very alive in our team. And I really support this! I feel I can still improve a lot in my critical thinking skills. All the people in our Knowmads team have well developed critical thinking skills, which is great! I have a strong feeling coming up though which says: ‘Please don’t try to be Western.’ Asian philosophy and ways of thinking can open up the Western approach so much and add so much value to our collective wisdom. It would be such a pity if we would forget about these different approaches and thinking frames. Non-duality being one of the mindsets, originating from Taoism and Buddhism, we lack in Western society.

Finally, I was happy with both trainers’ reaction to support us. Sunday afternoon Mr. Binh told us about the LGBT movement in Vietnam and had us reflect on ways to improve this movement. Seeing Mr. Binh’s interest in our suggestions made me realize that we do have valuable ideas, input and skills even though we might be less experienced. It helps me to get rid of my conviction that in order to be able to do any kind of work or project I need to be perfectly skilled in it already. This holds me back in my work and is part of my lack of self-confidence I shared about in my previous blog post. Slowly, these experiences, both getting in touch with my inner fire and seeing the trust and interest that trainers have in us, help me to feel empowered. I’m very much looking forward to next weekend’s continuation!


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