Confidently Un-oriented (part 1)By
Years ago I was headed to the airport with a colleague to meet a couple of new team members. While waiting for their arrival, we began discussing training and orientation. My friend shared with me some stuff he had been reading about the need for unlearning prior to effective learning. We laughed for some time as we created and shared ideas for programs of disorientation.
Over the first weeks I provided a standard orientation for our new team member. We covered a range of topics including: getting around the city, history, culture, strategy, missiology, ecclesiology, etc. After weeks for some issues and months for others, we would revisit issues at the team member’s prompting. Often we would cover the same points or have a conversation almost identical to our previous discussion—but this time it obviously clicked. In looking back I see that this happened repeatedly with personnel that I have worked with in various roles—both religious and secular. In some instances people have come back more than a year later and shared that they now understood some topic we had discussed. Also, on numerous occasions, I personally experienced the need to review or almost to go through reorientation.
How do you explain to someone how different it really is in the place where you landed compared with the place you left? How do you do orientation? How do you communicate or lead? When people look the same, but the paradigms they maintain are radically different, how do you explain the invisible interpretation process they go through? Today I spoke with a friend talking about the cultural differences he experienced when moving from South Carolina to Mississippi. I have seen volunteers that just didn’t grasp key concepts in their short period of time in a new context, culture, country, etc. I have heard the comment in various formats, “people everywhere are the same, they just speak with different accents.” Really? Is this true or the perspective of the confidently un-oriented?
My experiences have often caused me to go back to our comical banter on programs of disorientation. They are still funny, but not so unrealistic now. You can reorient people only after they realize they are disoriented. The man who is confidently walking north as he is looking for something on the far south side of town does not need assistance…yet. He will get input in the future or he will continue to walk in the wrong direction. First, he must realize he doesn’t have a clue how to arrive at the mark—he is genuinely disoriented.
My desired model for communicating or teaching looks like this: Disorientation –> Reorientation –> Meaningful change. When the sequence is in this order, significant learning and change can happen in short periods of time. However, at times I try to convince the confidently un-oriented person to embrace my position. Sometimes, I is him.