The value of an experience share
Author and teacher Erica Jong once said: “Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t.” That notion of seeking input from others but knowing the answers always lie within is what drives Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO).
Haven’t we all had a time when we’re facing a major business decision: Should we bring on a partner? How do we increase sales? How can we better motivate our workforce? How do we cover payroll this month? It’s one thing to copy and paste a solution from a trusted friend or advisor, but that rarely works because no two situations are the same. At EO, we center our organization around the Experience Share, a more fruitful and productive way to help navigate the best course of action for those tough decisions.
EO is a global network of more than 10,000 business owners and founders in 46 countries. As the only global peer-to-peer community of entrepreneurs, EO is the catalyst that enables entrepreneurs to learn and grow from each other, leading to greater business success and an enriched personal life.
EO members meet in monthly forums, intimate groups of no more than eight people, and discuss topics related to work, family and personal issues. The cornerstones of these forums are confidentiality, personal responsibility and a Gestalt Mindset. These three factors are critical to a successful forum, helping create a safe environment where members can truly open up about the issues most affecting them.
Confidentiality and personal responsibility are obvious, but “Gestalt Mindset” might be the most powerful of the three cornerstones. This language protocol supports the risk being taken by others in a Forum and loosely translates to “speak only from experience”.
We’re human, and as business owners and founders we naturally want to engage in problem solving. Advice is a frequent result of problem-solving conversations. However, problem solving interferes with Gestalt by introducing opinions and suggestions. The Gestalt Mindset enables us to think differently – we become better listeners and we improve our storytelling skills. Most importantly, this language encourages people to find their own answers.
So how does one speak in Gestalt language? Do not give advice or opinions and steer clear of “should”, “would”, or “could”. Instead, speak from experience and in past tense. The implication here is that members have information that may help you figure it out rather than a “we know what is best for you” mentality.
The value of an experience share is priceless. We can help frame various scenarios by recounting our own experiences, outcomes and learnings. When several options are presented – by a group of trusted friends – it’s far easier to combine gut instinct with the insight from peers. The result is often driven with conviction and a more solid sense of addressing these difficult business and life decisions.
Perhaps the best thing about practicing Experience Shares is that you don’t just have to be a member of EO to use Gestalt language. Help your employees, spouses and friends find a solution themselves through your experiences.
In my experience, they will thank you for it later.