A question is a motor for development!

'A question is a motor for development!'   This is the main phrase which struck me, while reading the 'Handbook Developing as Professional'   written by Carolien de Monchy.  The handbook is very useful for professionals who have a passion for learning and developing.
A continuous changing world is challenging the today's professional, to update his knowledge and capacities constantly.  Three dimensions are influencing the development of the today's professional:   A dynamic environment of changing knowledge and technologies,  the changing  perspectives in the organisational working surrounding and the changing demands from clients.

Talent and discipline
The book starts with an interesting metaphor.  Somebody throws coffee at the floor and  calls 'All wasted talents are flowing at the floor! What a pity!'   'How come wasted talents are at the floor?'  asks the author.  'When the coffee is flowing at the floor, it is wasted.  However, when the coffee is in a cup, it has value!'   It is the same how we use our talents as a professional.  When we don't have the discipline to update and develop our knowledge and skills, we waste our talents and capacities.  Becoming a professional requires discipline and structure.   If you don't practise, or don't ask for feedback from peer-colleagues or clients,  the chances that you will become successful in your domain of work will be limited.  Nowadays, the modern professional is creating and maintaining his own learning environment.

See video (in Dutch) where Carolien de Monchy explains about balancing the three perspectives in professional development - intro for IAF-BNL Conference, 23rd September, 2011

Outside and inside questions
There are many ways to develop as a professional.   You can attend a training,  read some interesting books and literature, participate in online communities,  become member and participate in a professional organisation,  share experiences in a peer-to-peer coachingsgroup ,  consult a coach, mentor or a senior and join a knowledge creation group.  

Curiosity, passion and asking questions are key for development.   With the outside questions, you can obtain progress on your discovery learning path by consulting your surroundings.  So where do I get my learning needs  fullfilled?  What kind of feedback do I get from my surrounding?  What are my qualities and what are my pitfalls?   And how do I develop my capacities?   The outside questions are the ones that can be answered by the environment of people and organisations which are surrounded by you.
The inside questions are the ones, that can only be answered by yourself.  What are my beliefs?  Why am I on this world?  What do I want to contribute to the world? (your own mission statement)  What is my identity?  What is my self-image?  And where do I want to go? (your vision)  What are my goals in life? (the spiritual dimension). 

Exercise 'Association Diary'
The 'Handbook Developing as Professional'  has some interesting exercises in helping you to get some outside and inside questions answered.  The one that was most appealing to me is the 'Association Diary'.   Some steps for this exercise:

  • For two or three weeks write down every day a diary with associations that come up in your mind;
  • After these weeks,  do three weeks something else.  So, don't open or write in the diary and take some distance;
  • Finally, after 4 - 6 weeks,  read through what you have written down in your diary and try to identify (look for) some patterns
  • Then, write a letter to yourself or a friend phrasing /your learning,  your intentions or your beliefs.

An experience that caught my eye, was a person saying:  'After recalling the words and text I wrote down, I felt it was a bit boring,  until I recognized it was the voice of my mother.  I was noticing a pattern in my words!   When I realized this, it felt like a relief and I was able to take a distance and let go this pattern!'

Create time for reflection
Taking regular time for reflection is a useful hint which I take from the Handbook.  For example:

  • Create space (1 or 2 hours a week)  in your agenda to reflect;
  • Make a date with yourself.  So do something with yourself, so that you can give yourself a relaxing treat.  Consider this appointment with yourself as important and valuable time and do not offer this time for another appointment;
  • Evaluate at least every quarter.

Professional development through social media
An increasing number of Professionals are now deepening their professional knowledge through discussion groups as Linkedin and Yammer.  The book 'En_Nu_Online'  written by Joitske Hulsebosch and Sibrenne Wagenaar is complementary to the 'Handbook Developing as Professional'  written by Carolien de Monchy.   Daily I read some interesting articles and watch some amazing video's through links which I receive at my twitter account @koolwijk.   A lot of practical knowledge I gain through following discussions at a number of Linkedin groups.  When I am getting stuck and need advice from a peer-colleague I consult my colleages by an e-mail or a phone call.  And when I can not directly get my question answered through my first circle of colleagues, I put my question at a Linkedin group.  It is amazing how many people are willing to assist and share their knowledge.   As Carolien de Monchy is mentioning,  asking a question is a motor for development!


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