vrijdag 27 april 2012

Dare to ask / durf te vragen

Dare to Ask is the English translation of the Dutch eBook "Durf te vragen", written by Niels Roemen and Fanny Koerts. "Durf te vragen" has grown into a popular tag on Twitter, but is not yet well known in the English language world. This post contains a short outline. Should this outline generate a lot of interest, I'll see if I can find some time to translate parts of the ebook into English.

"Dare to ask" was invented some years ago by Herman Drummer and Nils Roemen. In no time a couple of "dare to ask" sessions were organized. The sessions grew in numbers. So did the number of session coaches. By now #durftevragen is a well known tag on Twitter.

Dare To Ask is founded on the principle that everybody has a social surplus: knowledge, ideas or skills that no one else has, and that somebody else needs. Many people like to help for free.
In 2008, 50,000 volunteers cleaned the entire country of Estonia. It took them 5 hours.

People often hesitate to ask for help: if you as for help, you may appear to be weak. We like to solve our own problems. We are afraid that others will ask something in return. The latter rarely happens.

By not asking we deprive others of the opportunity to help. Asking offers others the opportunity to share their social surplus with us.

1) What's going on?
Sharing has never been easier. While knowledge monopolies meant power, now the ability to share knowledge has became a powerful pillar of innovation. TED is an initiative to share ideas. When other places wanted to organize similar sessions, the initiators decided that sharing the concept of TED would have greater impact than a centralized TED monopoly. Universities often put their colleges on line as videos. Wikipedia is according to one research as reliable as the Encyclopedia Brittanica. Wikipedia is written by volunteers sharing their knowledge. Open source software is a very successful kind of software.

We should realize that all of us have more ideas than we can realize. So giving away the ideas we can not use ourselves might be a good idea. Social media such as twitter and Facebook are great ways to share ideas and knowledge. But we should not forget RL (real Life), it is a human necessity to meet eye-to-eye, and a very effective way.

Everybody may become an expert. In his book Why Some People Succeed and Some Don't Malcolm Gladwell shows that everybody can become an expert at something - but it takes some 10.000 hours of hard working.

2) What do you want?
Successful therapist Jan Willem Wolff asks his clients: Who really wants what? The 'who' and 'what' are important items in the failure or success of a project. The must be a person who really wants something, and he must be able to express that in a very clear way.

If you don't have the determination to make your dreams and ideas come true, why would other help you? Define your ideas and goals, and communicate them. If you don't communicate them, others wont understand them. And if they don't understand them, and understand why they are important for you, they will rather invest time in their own ideas than help you.

Real dreams are often bigger than the possibilities and skills you have available at the moment. So don't be shy to ask for assistance. Still people are often afraid to ask.

Three misconceptions:
1. maybe they'll ask something in return. Yes, there is something like a social bank account. Someone who helped you may ask you for something else. Help the other when you can, but not above that. And you can ignore people who only ask and never give.
2. Asking for help is a sign of weakness. Yes, but the ancient Greek already knew: the more you know, the more you realize that you know very little. It is no sign of weakness to admit that.
3. Stay in control. Yes, if you delegate some things will go wrong. But you have more talents available when you use those of others instead of just your own.

3) What is a good question?
A good question is a question that gives useable answers. That need not be a shorty question. It may be a short story. Try to describe the stories and images in your head. Chances are that others will add details and parts. Talk to people, preferably with people with another mindset. Exercise asking your questions to different people. Watch when people are 'turned on', when they start to think with you. 'How' questions are often good questions to make people start thinking

If your questions don't generate answers, in a 'date to ask' session, or on twitter, it may have different causes. Maybe people have no ideas. It may be a topic they know little about. Maybe they feel guilty for not being able to help. Maybe you will have to alter your question. Maybe you should ask others.

4) Who wants to help me?
It's a waste to leave the capacities of all those people who are waiting outside to help you, unused. In the strength of weak ties, sociologist Mark Granovetter argued that distant acquaintances may have the capacities most needed by you, because your close friends may have similar ideas to you.

Some people drain energy from you. Others give you energy. Find the latter.

But if, after a few hopeful ideas, real obstacles are mentioned, give them serious thought. It's no use to work on something impossible.

5) Hands on
Sometimes people invest a lot of time and effort to ask all the right questions, to mobilize people, and and to collect good answers. And then they do nothing with them!

This is not surprising. Knowing what to do make you also realize how much more time and effort is required to attain your goal.

But you may also create your own failures by looking up against all the effort, or by looking back at previous failures. Instead, try to look on the rewards of success. On the target that you set yourself. Think in terms of possibilities (at the same time, do give problems serious thought: what can you do to overcome them?)

Don't keep things secret. When someone started selling t-shirts with #durftevragen, our first reaction was shock. We contacted the seller, who responded very honest. Now every sold t-shirt is one more sales person walking around without any effort on our side.

Start doing something with your ideas. You don't always need an business case, filled in tax forms, a webdesign, a logo and a business plan. You do need to start putting your ideas into reality: making them work.

Dare to fail: Maybe you are afraid starting to put your ideas into action because you may fail. Yes, this is scary. Yes, you may fail. Risks are necessary in this life. Yes, failing hurts. But not trying to put your ideas into action means failure anyway. Where do you want to fail? Do you want a chance on success?

Open source software such as Apache is among the most popular software in the world. Sharing is powerful. Of course some villains may steal ideas. No longer share with them, share with others. But keep sharing ideas which you are not gonna use anyway. Steve Johnson, in Where Good ideas come from, showed that good ideas often stem from interaction of ideas from different people.

Value determination after usage: within DurfTeVragen/DareToAsk we decided to work on the base of value determination by the customer. After a session, the customer may decide what the session was worth for him.

7) The toolkit
Over the years the DareToAsk coaches discovered what increases the chances that you get what you ask. Think Have courage Do random acts of kindness (randomactsofkindness.org) Believe it is possible Look at people as persons, not as trades Associate with heroes Do what makes your heart jump Challenge others to do what makes their heart jump Measure your happiness. make sure you have a safetynet Be kind Choose Yes instead of No Choose what makes you glad, not what people expect from you Help strangers. What do you notice? Without practical steps you don't get anywhere

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