Thursday, June 03, 2010

Show Your Working

One of the questions that throws me more than it throws most people is, 'Give examples?' or 'Such as?'

As an intuitive character I find that I just know quite a lot of things but don't know how I know. Once I learn something I don't remember the working. It makes me a poor teacher of practical skills. It is also funny that I can come across quite specific about practical things because I am showing my preference (this is how I do it) without stressing that there are probably several other ways a task can be done. I was chatting to an old friend, also ordained, the other day and we both remarked how we had not intended to train our colleagues to preside at communion exactly the way we do it but had noticed that that had been the outcome. Sorry.

I am reminded of the worst accountant I ever worked with who, on being asked if we were in the black or red (a simple enough question) would say 'maroon' and walk off. There are some occupations where intuitive isn't that good and specific is great.

'This is how to set the room out for the meeting,' I will say. 'Why is it important for it to be that way?' asks my apprentice or trainee and I have to remember. Always have the audience face the dullest wall. Have the entrance doors at the back. Don't make it possible for guests to look out of the window while you're speaking. Incidentally, Trendlewoodians, that means there is a right answer to the way we should face when we meet on a Sunday. But then the screen would be wrong.

Sometimes, as an exercise, I try to track back my daydreams and see how one thought led to another. Often in conversation with people who are equally afflicted I will have to ask, 'How did we get here?' We need to show our working to remind ourselves of the journey.

And intuitives can also be catastrophically wrong. At my ministerial review yesterday I discovered I had answered one of the questions with the complete opposite of the truth, purely by misunderstanding one word of the question. It asked me to talk about structures; I had talked about rules. Only by answering the difficult 'Why do you say that?' question was I able to unravel the reason for the mismatch between what I had said and the truth.

So if you are likely to say 'This is how...' remember to qualify. It is not the only way.

Sometimes you find that checking through your working trips you up too. You do things the way they have always been done but the situation has changed. So you could change too.

No comments: