Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Rule of Six

From a suggestion by Alan on the listserve, comes this article by Judy Sorum Brown about a way to think about something perplexing. Since the article says it better than I can...

"When we are trying to figure out something perplexing (for which we often use the term, "a problem"), or when we are facing into uncertainty, it seems natural to our western way of thinking to find the right answer through questions like this: "Exactly what is the cause of this? What's going on here? How are things going to unfold? What is likely to happen? What should be our plan?

Many of the most heated arguments, whether within our own heads, or among colleagues or with family members, are about who has the right answer to the question before us.

The "rule of six," a Native American thinking process or discipline, requires that instead of coming up with the one best answer to the question, we instead come up with at least six possible, or good, answers. And then having done that, we hold all six in our head and do not choose among them.

This is very hard for the Western mind. Even when we think of two possibilities, it is for the implicit purpose of having those two possibilities fight it our, until one wins. Thinking about more than one cause of an event or more than one possibility of an outcome is, in our mind, simply an invitation for us to quickly choose the right one.

The Native tradition, by contrast, holds that there is a generous and open space after we notice something. And that is the space within which to hold many possible interpretations, or causes, or developments.

The ability to hold six possibilities in our mind accomplishes several things. It keeps our perceptions open to a wider range of data; it allows us to be 'systems thinkers' seeking multiple roots of causality in multiple dimensions of a situation; it keeps folks from having to fight with each other about who is right at a time when they should be listening with curiosity to why each other sees things differently.

And since we are not forcing ourselves to invest our ego in a single "best" idea, we naturally become more flexible in our thinking, and if our "favorite" of the possibilities doesn't turn out to be born out by the unfolding of data, we can more easily shift out emotional commitment to another idea which in the course of time has proved stronger; and we can make that shift earlier and more easily.

So in a sense, the rule of six allows us to remain aware and realistic, more flexible in our thinking, present to the world and to the thoughts and perceptions of others, and perhaps even more compassionate with ourselves when we are "of two minds" or more about something."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This text should be
a link and a test of a hyperlink.