Socrates as a mentor?

The modern socratic method I belive is not helpful for growing ideas or for exploring ideas.. and can be dangerous in terms of mentoring.  This thought process started when I read David Cohens’ blog on developing The Mentor Manifesto  I tried to add a comment but either there was a bug in the software or David did not like my comment.  I don’t know, helpful for me in two ways I tried to refine the point and post it again, again nothing.. Also it made me think about the effort I put into comments.. Anyways back on track..

I believe with the socratic method you may end up with the most defendable rather than the best idea or solution.  It is also a negative  method of hypothesis elimination, in that better hypotheses are found by steadily identifying and eliminating those that lead to contradictions. Some ideas need to be grown and evolved i.e. “green housing”.  This is often the problem with democratic political systems that there is more to be gained by ‘making a point’ then solving the problem. The methodology and strategy can get in the way of the what you are trying to acheive.

For many the socratic method is the basis of ‘critical thinking’ or scientific thinking.  I put a proposal/hypothesis , you attack, I defend, you attack, I defend…. I believe it is a is one methdology and should not be a way of life.

Many years ago I read a book called ‘Sticky Wisdom’ by ?WhatIF! which developed a concept of how you get many ideas and refine them. It was not aggressive or conflict based it was collaborative.  I have found this method of creative thinking as excellent for solutions to many problems, it encourages the full power of the room working in one direction rather than the room been divided half e.g. for and half against..  It make sense right, if you can use everyone ones brain power heading in the same direction that you will end up with something more powerful, and everyone brought in because they were all involved in the journey to its creation.

Below is the basis of WhatIfs’ sticky wisdom:

The Innovators Dilemma talks about how they are lots of big companies being over taken by companies not from their sector.  I believe that sometimes critical thinking or socratic method gets you focused real fast and you many not be able to laterally think or out of the box because you are defending your initial idea/hypothesis. Or you not realize you need to dump the idea, because you are defending it, and in defence your ego may get intertwined.  You have become defensive.

I recently heard a good lecture at the Design Thinking UNconference #DT2011 that you should ensure that you divergence of ideas e.g. Brainstorm should be kept very separate from you convergence e.g. testing of ideas. The first process being more intuitive more emotional and the second being rational, logical.

So to mentoring.  I often find the best mentors ask questions and help you find your own path. I think the best mentors can flip between both forms of thinking, but I think they work better with the creative first and the critical when the time for testing comes.

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About Eric Brooke

I’m deeply curious, love to learn, insightful about people and their psychological makeup, deft at communication, excel at networking, deeply tech-savvy and relish growing others through education and leadership. I am a developer, marketeer, gamer, lover of water slides and ice cream :-)

Posted on 2 September , 2011, in Mentoring and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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