Challenging times invite radical possibilities. Or at least give us the opportunity to let them in. If we ‘listen’ carefully enough.

It’s reassuring to know that we can invent or create HOW we are going to ‘listen’ at any time — before and during any conversation, in any meeting, listening to a podcast, watching a webinar, reading an article, and so on.

Perhaps it’s simple but not so easy: it takes appreciating the conversation and self-talk we are having with ourselves, at any moment (and almost all the time), and then inventing & creating another way to listen beyond or in addition to that.

We need to ask ourselves the question, “what am I going to listen for?”

For example, listen for what’s possible vs what we know and expect.

Apart from understanding the linguistics for this kind of work, we need to appreciate our motivations at that point in time.

What’s most important to me now? What’s important for the stakeholders in the ‘room’?

With system challenges across multiple domains such as education, health, climate, food, poverty, gender equality, amongst others, being magnified by the turn of events presented by our pandemic times, it behooves the question of how new thinking can be unleashed for dealing with the epidemiological, economic, emotional and existential challenges without changing our listening ‘lens’. Clearly, it is not that we didn’t or don’t see these challenges, often at the molecular level. It is in our motivational and cognitive ability to not let our ‘built-in’ framing and biases shape how we’ll let new thinking in so that we can open the doors for new possibilities.

Let’s look at education, for example.

Will we enter every conversation looking to use our ‘hammers’ to hit the usual ‘nails’ viz assessment, quality, access, teacher development, and so on? The usual public ‘education bundle’. And of course, it goes without saying that the bigger our hammer, the harder we’ll want to drive the nail or consider it, knowing the power we wield.

What if we changed the perspective then, on reconciling the most challenging year the world of education has ever faced? How do we take stock for doing proper due diligence so that we put a ‘period’ at the end of 2020 and use that as jet fuel for breakthroughs? What if we had everyone write a letter to themselves, painting a vivid vision of what they’ve created? That creation, that invention, having begun in the mind. Activating the so-called reticular activating system for themselves and others who read it. So that we can listen for the things that matter. Without feeling committed or locked into the outcomes. Enjoying the process more than the outcome, recognizing that the path to the Promised Land may bring new twists and turns — strategic by-products — more valuable and impactful than the outcomes we strove for in the first place.

Let’s put on a different ‘listening lens’ — the one for possibilities.