Learning and change…An old Simone Uncensored…2009

March 8, 2020

I just got off the telephone with a colleague who was bemoaning the fact that we just don’t change. We don’t change the way we do fund development.

Sure, people go to conferences. People listen to speakers and read books and even read research. But change doesn’t seem to be the result.

I agree with her. Hey, that’s what Keep Your Donors talks about a lot. Questioning and learning. Learning and change. And how individuals and organizations don’t do this enough.

In fact, asking why and questioning and learning and changing are the framework for the book. Just read Intermezzo #1 Why and Chapter 2 The Red Pants Factor and Intermezzo # 5 You and Your Organization Sprinting into the Future.

One of my favorite quotes says: “The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice.” (From Dune: House Harkonnen, by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. Brian Herbert is Frank Herbert’s son. Dad Frank wrote Dune, one of those seminal books, a seminal sci fi book. I’m a big fan – of science fiction, especially science fiction fantasy.)

Anyway, back to questioning and learning and changing…

Asking why is more important than asking how. We ask “how” far too much. We learn a bunch of hows and combine a bunch of hows. And often just make a big mess. Without understanding “why,” knowing how just doesn’t help that much.

The French have a phrase, the folie du pourquoi. It means the craziness of asking why.

Just think about it. Anywhere anytime in the world some child asks, “Why?” And the adult gives an answer and the child asks, “Why?” Question. Answer. Question. Answer.

We’re great little probers as kids. It’s a way to navigate the strange world.

But by the teen years, we’re purged. Yup. That’s what research says. By the early teens, people are trained to no longer ask why.

School tests teach a right answer. Domineering teachers discourage questioning. Boards embrace dysfunctional politeness and treat questioning as disloyal. Someone sometime told you and me that disagreeing and arguing wasn’t nice.

How sad. And how problemmatic.

Because asking questions is how we learn and change. Asking questions is how we stimulate deep conversations. It’s the questions that matter most.

We need better questions. Questions that rattle cages and challenge assumptions. Questions that stimulate thinking and deep conversation. That’s how we learn.

Reactivate your childhood folie du pourquoi. Stop assuming there are answers. Relentlessly ask questions – especially why. (Avoid how for a while!)

And please, learn from questioning and learn from conversation. Learn when you read and when you attend conferences.

Then change. Change now. Things are rather a mess now. So let’s change. Now.

“You sure get a lot of questions in the world, without exactly getting the same number of answers. In fact, there was a huge gap between the two numbers.” (From Ysabel, by Guy Gaviel Kay, one of my favorite sci fi fantasy authors.)

About Simone Joyaux

A consultant specializing in fund development, strategic planning, and board development, Simone P. Joyaux works with all types and sizes of nonprofits, speaks at conferences worldwide, and teaches in the graduate program for philanthropy at Saint Mary’s University, MN. Her books, Keep Your Donors and Strategic Fund Development, are standards in the field.

Simone Joyaux, ACFRE, Adv Dip, FAFP, is an internationally recognized expert in fund development, board and organizational development, strategic planning, and management.

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