We often find ourselves stuck in repeating patterns, saying the same thing or making the same mistakes. This can be really helpful as it often adds to continuity, but it can result in great frustration, limited progression during change or difficulty implementing something new.
This happens to both individuals at home, work or in relationships. It also happens to teams or groups of people.
Human beings are pattern seeking and meaning making machines. Without trying at all, we can create order from chaos. We often see patterns when others often don’t. We are comfortable when something “fits” with our knowledge, understanding or expectations. We yearn for certainty and love to “pigeon hole”, even if we think we don’t.
This is natural and helpful most of the time, but it also explains why we struggle to make changes and break free of existing patterns that we or our “group” are enmeshed in. Although we need structure and pattern to operate, we also need to break out of our patterns of thinking, being or doing, if we want to think creatively or make significant changes.
Changing patterns and changing the thinking that goes with it, can be tricky because our brain is infinitely suggestible, but also loves repetitive thought. We only have to think the same thought, see the same thing or do something a couple of times, to we lay down a neurological pathway which is primed to react even quicker when observe, think, do or feel the same again. Repetition strengthens the pathway which is great for habits, actions, beliefs and thoughts that are helpful, but it makes personal change a challenge. (If you are wondering how we know all this, Functional MRI scanning is now able to take precise images of neural pathways being used during specific activities, be they practical, emotional or though states).
Most coaching approaches rely on asking questions to increase awareness and unlock wisdom, but the type of questions and the way they are asked, can lead to the “same place” or usual thinking or rehashed ideas. Its why some people say “I can coach myself…I can just ask myself some of those coaching questions”.
The pioneering work of the late David Grove, led to the development of Clean Language and Emergent Knowledge techniques within coaching.
Put simply, if you ask someone the same question once, twice, three and even four times, they will usually give you their existing knowledge, ideas and usual responses. It’s only when you go beyond the 5th iteration that new insights, awareness, ideas and knowledge appear. Facilitating this process is skilful, but it yields amazing results. The emergent knowledge process is a sensitive, active process and includes asking repetitive questions. It is based on the science of emergence (this science is used by Google and Amazon and uses networks and iterative algorithms).
Using emergent knowledge coaching is one way I help people gain new insights and break out of old patterns. Using the creative arts also helps to expand thinking, so click here if you want to read more.