Are You Trying To Give Or Teach In Your Business?


Friday, 7pm

Sheffield, U.K.

A good teacher, like a good entertainer first must hold his audience’s attention, then he can teach his lesson. – John Henrik Clarke

There are consistent tensions that emerge when you create something that you think is new and valuable. While its an idea or a vision it’s just floating out there. But the minute you make it tangible, put it into the world in some kind of form you start to lose control – and so I suppose people try and exert control once again. If only to be able to exploit what they create – to monetise it. But in doing so you constrain the idea and it’s hard for it to adapt and expand until it stops, stuck where it is. At which point you have to go and start looking for another idea. You get a sense of this in the picture below.


How do you find a balance between holding something so tightly that you crush it and so loosely that it flies away? I don’t know how to do that but I think it’s work changing the way we think from wanting to reach a goal to going through a process or a cycle. And there is just a small difference between the two things – but it has a big impact.


That small amount of circularity in the process mindset means you can think about things for longer. You can take a bit more time because you get another chance to do it better. But there are lots of things that you have to do perfectly – you have to sing that song right, hit that ball straight – and the kind of approach you take depends on the kind of thing you’re doing.

For example, we will all probably be in situations where we have to figure out how to market what we do – and there are really two big choices in this day and age. You can give people something or you can teach them something. You can be a giver or a teacher.

The model below is a cognitive map that is meant to be read in a particular way. It’s full of bipolar constructs – which means that each sentence has two opposite poles separated by three dots. The three dots. “…”, mean “rather than”. So, in the first oval you read the sentence as “Get paid for your work rather than get paid to teach”. The second thing is that the tiny minus sign on the line linking “Teacher” to the next oval means that the second statement applies to that point. So, as you read down the model the “Giver” relates to the first pole of each construct and the “Teacher” relates to the second pole.


Yes it’s complicated – bear with me – I’m trying to wrap my head around this way of thinking too.

The way I took “real” sketchnotes is like the image below – paper in a clipboard and a pencil. And it helped me learn – and now, years later, those concepts still make sense. It’s not pretty, but it helped me with what I needed to do.


What this means really is that if you want to teach someone something like visual thinking – then making really lovely pictures that you need an art degree to be able to do is more likely to scare them off than help them. If you want to show your work and have people admire it – then do the best work you can. But that’s not teaching. Teaching is about showing people work that’s possible in the situation, in the heat of the moment. For example, if you google “Sketchnotes” you will see some amazing examples. But in practice most of us are not going to be able to create those works of art in a real classroom while learning.

So, the answer to the question of what matters – the message or how it looks is really to respond by saying that’s the wrong question. The right question is asking, “What are you trying to do – give or teach?” And the answer to that question will help you get the balance you need.


Karthik Suresh

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