Jake Trent

Explore the Unhelpful

It might be worth exploring the unhelpful -- and it might not.

When you're trying to learn, you might try something that isn't going to yield fruit. But unless you try, how do you know?

When you're trying to make sense of something, you might compare or contrast it to other similar things. These models might be wrong, but maybe they're helpful. It's hard to know until you start making the comparison.

Have you ever been in a meeting where you were trying to heard cats in an efficient conversation toward an outcome? It takes a lot of skill to do such a thing -- stay on track and find the outcome. In that meeting, have you experienced someone bringing up what you're sure will be a rabbit hole that we won't come out of until there's not enough time left in the meeting? It can be frustrating to experience.

But how else do we learn? How else do we discover what is unhelpful? We poke and prod at life and work and go forward as best we can, imperfectly.

We can be blessed by mentors and leaders who have a vision of where we're going and can help us get there without as many dead ends. But should we help learners avoid all dead ends? Does a life without dead ends teach? Is it always the best thing for a leader to respond to a learner's exploration with, "I don't think this line of thinking is helpful." It may be the best thing. It probably isn't always.

And even when we sense that exploring something might not be helpful, we might let it happen anyway. Maybe we should even encourage it. Who knows, maybe helpful learning will occur, or maybe even a better outcome.