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5 min read

The Knowing Mode Vs. The Learning Mode

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If you were able to observe yourself, do you know what your question-to-statement ratio is on a daily basis?  Generally, if your ratio is more questions than statements this is a great indicator that you are in the learning mode, but if it is the opposite well you will definitely want to keep reading. 

You might wonder what is the learning mode.  For many of us in TCN, Dr. Lee Thayer had a great impact on our lives and our learning and development as leaders.   This is one of the greatest lessons we got from him, the difference between being in the knowing mode versus being in the learning mode.  We believed so much in this principle we codified it in our TCN values.


When I first heard Dr. Thayer use these phrases, I thought, “Well, surely I am in the learning mode so let me check that box.”  Not so fast, mister!  The more time I spent around Dr. Thayer, the more I realized that most of my ideas and conversations were simply to prove my point.  This realization was prompted by his asking me questions and rattling my cage.  I can still remember the day when, in one of his classes, I had a “Claritin commercial moment."  Just like the commercial, it seemed as though everything was in living color and then a film was removed, and I could really see in living color.  It was so simple, yet the paradigm shift felt like my fingernails dragging across a board as my grip slipped away from the old paradigm.  Then, as the film was removed, I wondered why I had not lived my life like this before. 


I began to simply go into conversations and my day-to-day life like I had all the world to learn, therefore I asked more questions.  In fact, I would ask myself, “What is the best question to ask right now?”   That simple shift began conversations like nothing I had experienced before.  As Dr. Thayer would say, questions are life-giving; statements, well…not so much. 

The knowing mode is statement oriented.  The knowing mode isn’t inquisitive.  It seeks to showcase what it already knows rather than explore what could be missing.  The knowing mode is bondage.  It’s also insidious and hard to shake. 


Dr. Thayer would often say  learning = growth and growth = life.  The learning mode is indeed life-giving.  And it always starts with asking questions with a general desire and curiosity to learn. 

So, let’s try a thought experiment: are you in the learning mode?  How do you know?  What did you learn yesterday?  How did you learn it?  Stick with that for a while. 


My challenge to all of us, myself included, is to approach tomorrow after we read this with a new paradigm – to approach every situation as if it were the first time we have seen it.  Then pause and think,  “What’s the best question I can ask here?”   See if it does not remove the film like the Claritin commercial for you, and watch as your world begins to shift before your eyes. 


Chris Comeaux, President / CEO of Teleios Collaborative Network



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