SHURA (Consultation) and The Management of Ideas

How To make the best use of Talent of the Various Individuals that Attend our Mosques to the Benefit of the Ummah

Shura means participatory consultation.

– Organizations, teams, associations, etc. from time to time have course to consult members or staff to solicit for ideas concerning the work they do. Members and staff are usually forth-coming with such ideas as solicited. The ideas come in the form of the good the not so good and the totally off mark ones. The person collating the ideas has to manage such ideas in such a way that those who offered them do not feel slighted or unappreciated for what they may think were brilliant suggestions made to help reach good decisions, but treated shabbily.

– This write up deals with the Management of ideas in da’wah work- how we manage the good and the apparently not so good ideas as we work towards improving society.

We will be learning about the thinking tools that allow us to harness ideas and transform them to become useful.

WHAT IS THINKING?

– Thinking is what you do when you are trying to answer the question: “What is thinking?”

WHAT IS AN IDEA?

An idea is a mental representation of something, be it an object or an abstract thing.

– Most of the things around us are products of yesterday’s ideas

  • This recording was an idea before it was recorded.
  • Architects’ building plans are ideas that were transformed into drawings and later on into concrete structures.

– As leaders of our organizations we have to manage ideas such that they converge to transform into making a great organization.

– How we manage ideas that people share with us depends on whether they will be willing to share more of such ideas with us in the future.

-How we manage ideas also influence the quality of ideas that are given to you in future.

– Our organization’s progress is tied to the quality of ideas that we allow to drive our deeds/moves

– Our most useful resource as humans is our intellect

– It is the intellect that drives the human resource because it organizes, manages and harnesses the other resources 

– Thinking = Driver

– Intelligence = The Car

-Thinking is like driving while intelligence is the car ie the horse power

– Intelligence is natural/fixed genetically and we can not improve or expand on it. Whatever one is endowed is he has to make do with.

– Intelligence is what helps us to get out of a problem, while wisdom is what helps us not to get into a problem.

– Thinking as a skill can be learned and improved upon.

-Improving our thinking ability is one of the maqasid (higher intents) of shari’ah hence prohibition of anything that will disturb/numb our thinking capabilities.

WHAT KILLS THINKING? OR WHAT IS THE ENEMY OF THINKING?

  • Finding an answer to a problem/challenge/question kills thinking. This is because once an answer is found, thinking about the issue comes to an end.
  • Putting people who are trying to provide answers to what is being thought about into:
  • categories
  • names
  • boxes

For example, when we try to tie the person suggesting an idea to an association, ethnicity, race, tendency, we will be killing thinking.

  • Mental fatigue
  • Ego in form of arrogance or not caring to listen to the other person
  • Fear of making mistakes
  • The enemy of the best is the good/adequate. So the enemy of the idea is a better idea. (However, we have to be cautious to set deadlines so as to help us out of such logjams of forever looking for better ideas without trying to even test-run the only good idea we might have at the moment.)

ADVERSARIAL THINKING

This is when countering answers are attempted from two or more sides leading to loosing the chance for a constructive thinking process, just like a debate. This is not helpful for organizations since it is usually more of ego trips that are not based on concrete problem solving processes.

  • Constructive = for a good purpose
  • Discontent = that we are not satisfied with the answers we presently have.
  • Sometimes you will have to be/show discontent in order for it to become constructive

 

WE’VE ARRIVED SYNDROME

  • The belief that you have succeeded undermines progress/success
  • Always ask yourselves, “How can we be better?” Bill Gates has adopted this at Microsoft. Be your own greatest competitor. How can we make yesterday’s effort more efficient today?
  • While we thank Allah for enabling us to get where we are today, we should not rest on our oars but keep trying to improve on our achievement.
  • Seek first to understand before you seek to be understood. Information at your disposal helps you on the type of ideas you can generate. Be a good listener. Ibn Ashur says Allah, while consulting with the angels before creating human beings was asked by the angels if He would put those who will do all sorts of wrongs on earth. Allah’s asking, according to Ibn Ashur does not mean that Allah who is All Knowing didn’t know how humans are likely to behave, or that the angels would ask Him such questions, but because He (Allah) wanted to honour the angels by consulting them. It is in that same way that He honoured humans beings by making the angels bow to him after his creation.
  • One of the most important sentences in management is “What do you think?” If Allah can do it (consultation), let no human think he aught not do it.
  • Both du’a and istikhara are expected to be embarked upon before reaching decision. Both of these and consultation should be engaged in. Surah Aali ‘Imran, verse 159 states: “Consult them in matters of affairs and when you have taken a decision then put your trust in Allah: for Allah loves those who put their trust in Him.”  Also, “Believers are those who conduct their affairs through mutual consultation,” Surah Shura 36-38.
  • Be careful about your biases when you come to consult regarding those you consult. A maxim states: “nothing about us without us.” When you are trying to reach a decision on matters that concern youth, or women or traders, make sure you consult some youth, women or traders. Be sensitive to the critical importance of the ideas of the people on the other side. For example, we are sometimes biased again a particular age saying, for example that: “Oh they are old timers,” or “They are just children, what do they know?”etc, as if such do not have an iota of wisdom. Sometimes the biases are based on gender, race, field of knowledge/discipline, level of education, wealth, faith, etc.
  • There is need to appreciate and exploit diversity, according to Qur’an 30;32. See also in Suratul Hujuraat, (lita’aarafu).

Suppose someone states he wants to start a dog rearing farm, what would his listeners’ reaction likely be? Likely reaction could be. They would ask:

                “Whose idea is it, the boss or an ordinary member team?”

In a carpentner’s toolbox, which is the most important tool?

  • Depends on the job at hand
  • Different tools do different jobs

What is the fastest way of moving from one place to another?

  • Which means of transportation?

  • The Six thinking hats process is a more advanced form of SWOT analysis
  • It helps us to know diversity of thinking styles and assessing ideas

WHITE HAT THINKING

  • This is for searching for information. No judgment, just information, curiosity, asking questions on the matter/idea etc. Just eliciting more information.

 YELLOW HAT THINKING

  • This is about the positive, bright side, optimist’s side, good side, advantages of the matter/idea etc.

BLACK HAT THINKING

  • This concerns itself with cautions, darkness, disadvantages, being pessimistic, problems related to the idea

GREEN HAT THINKING

  • This deals with growth, creation, vegetation, imagination, alternatives, asking “what else?,” adjusting, modifying, helps us get out of fixes, moves us away from adversarial thinking to alternative ideas that are better.

RED HAT THINKING

  • This concerns feelings, emotions, gut instincts, immediate reactions. These should not be brushed aside just because they are feelings. It is a situation when one is not just comfortable about an idea, but could not pinpoint why he feels so.

BLUE HAT THINKING

  • This oversees the others. It is the metaphor, colour of the sky. The monitor and the arbiter. It is the hat of the manager who ensures that all hats’ colours’ opinions are duly considered and assessed carefully.

Each of the hats has its own uses and limitations.

    Gray Hat? – for consequences?

    Golden Hat? – for a golden rule? Ethics? Quality? Standards?

NOTES

  • The order in which the person wearing the blue hat asks for thinking ideas on which hat is of importance.
  • Some of the thinking hats when used well can significantly improve the quality of thinking and decision making. So we have to recognize the responsibilities that come as a result of using these thinking styles.
  • Some hats, if over-used, especially to the detriment of other hats, could undermine thinking, contribution and consultation and openness.
  • Overindulgence in each one Hat could undermine thinking quality.

Too much White hat    = leads to skepticism, information overload, and it dissuades.

Too much of Black hat = Will prevent, others from contributing to the thinking process.

Too much of Red hat = Will be interpreted as seeing the contributor’s idea as being funny or silly.

Too much of Green hat = Will gives an impression that you (the Chairman) don’t like the idea and that you are therefore trying to shoot it down prematurely.

  • All hats are important but the order in which you use them also is important and we have to take responsibility for what hat we wear especially when we are older or are used to instantly identifying the pitfalls in ideas.
  • On the other hand, when we give/share our ideas with others, let’s be prepared for black hats and red hats and green hats. Let us not allow that to kill/dissuade our thinking creativity – let’s appreciate that even if this person was negative, a black hat is still good and useful. This person just started with that, appreciate his opinion, then request him to see if he could see any advantage in the idea. Or can the idea be modified and be made useful? Here, you as the moderator/manager wearing the blue hat are appealing to the person to wear a green hat and see if something useful could come out of the idea from that person’s perspective.

 

  • As the Chairman of the meeting/discussion who intends to use the thinking hats method to make decision on ideas, one might have to educate the members on how it works and which hat stands for what before embarking on the discussions.
  • When an idea is brought up, try to wear a blue hat, and then allow people to share their contributions on the idea using the various hats. You may observe that nobody used any green hat, or yellow hat, or a white hat, or everybody was just using a yellow hat and shying any from using a black hat which also has its importance!
  • The person who is interested in a structured discussion/meeting using the thinking hats could deliberately ask whether nobody is willing to consider black hat thoughts on the idea (or any other hat he felt was not given adequate attention during the discussion for that matter).
  • People usually appreciate that type of intervention because it enriches the discussion and assures the idea is thoroughly discussed/analysed from all angles.

ADVERSARIAL THINKING:

  • This is like a debate with each side discussing the advantages of its stand. It turns the discussion easily to biases, or we start putting people into boxes.

PARALLEL THINKING:

  • This is when members of a meeting/discussion deliberately agree to discuss the different perspectives on the idea with everyone contributing his understanding on the aspect of the idea being discussed.
  • Instead of the Chairman saying: “that is being too pessimistic/negative,“ or “you are only looking at the disadvantages!” You could still be gentler by saying: “That’s still a black hat, which is good. May I please have your yellow hat on the idea?”
  • So as the Chairman you can say: “We all want more knowledge on the idea. So, for the next few minutes I want your white hat on the idea/matter.” And
  • then everybody contributes what he/she knows about the matter. Some may only ask guiding questions to know more about the idea and how it could work. At the end of the minutes allocated for this, people are most likely going to be more enlightened about the idea that some of their black hat thoughts would have been neutralized.
  • After that, you could tell the members to move to another hat, say, the Yellow Hat. Whenever someone tries to jump to another Hat beside the one everybody is discussing on, gently tell him/her to wait until the Hat related to that is being discussed, but it should be jotted down by him so as not to forget before that Hat is reached.
  • The advantage of discussing the yellow Hat together, for example, is that even the person who brought the idea originally might find that with the contributions made by others on the idea, there are even more and better advantages to the idea that he/she had never thought about on it.
  • Next, the Chairman can order for movement to, say, the Black Hat. What do they think are the weaknesses, precautions, threats, problems to this idea? Here, it could be found that not only the pessimist who right from the beginning did not like the idea is educated about negativities related to it, he could even find from the contributions of members that there were problems to the idea that had escaped his thought earlier.
  • Then the Chairman could then order for movement to the Red Hat thoughts on the idea, asking for their feelings on the idea. They may not of necessity have reasons for their feelings, especially at the beginning of the thoughts on it but the feelings are likely to be there quite alright.
  • Then the Green Hat. What are the alternatives? Usually, at this stage, because all the White, Black, and Yellow Hats, on the idea are already known, the group members are informed enough to suggest alternatives, if any. If voting has to be done on the matter, no member would be able to accuse any other member of bias or ignorance, or the idea not having been adequately heard about his opinions on the idea.
  • When we come to consult, one thing we should appreciate is the need for people to differ, to disagree, to complain, to wear their Black Hats, to let us know what went wrong.
  • When people want to go on long journey with you in your organization you must have systems in place that makes it easy to relate problems when any manifests or anything they disagree about. If you allow them to stomach it and just grumble, your organization will suffer very serious unpalatable consequences in the future.
  • You must therefore try to open communication systems that allow people to present their complaints on your colleagues and your management styles so as to come to an agreement that is win-win and respectful of diversity. To travel far you go with others, to travel fast, you go alone (but you won’t get far). 
  • When you put your organization on such an open pedestal, you will find that staff are more productive because they are happy that their opinions matter.
  • To have an organization where people say yes even to a bad idea just to please their leaders is not good for such an organization in the long run.
  • We must try to be open always. Some don’t like receiving complaints or criticisms no matter how constructively given. You do not want relationships where people cannot face brutal facts. It is not good for cohesive teams/groups. Conflict is therefore beneficial because it is a sign of readiness to disagree, it is a sign of openness, e.t.c.
  • When people have complaints and disagreements, observing the etiquettes and ethics of disagreement are very important. We have to show adab and respect, openness, sincerity, in the way we handle criticisms. You don’t want a marriage, a working place, an association/group where people don’t share complaints.

ISSUES IN RELATIONSHIPS

Complaints

Criticisms

Contempt

COMPLAINTS

Complaint (as district from nagging) is when one states how he feels, how he hurts, and how frustrated he is. On this, it is easier for people to empathize with you because you are not accusing anybody. Whoever you are complaining to will know instinctively, where the problem is coming from. It is the green light, in that it is accepted by everybody as a way of trying to look for a way to douse the tension, and resolve the conflict.

CRITICISMS

Here, you mention what you know (which is the wrong done to you and who did the wrong). It could be that you feel unneeded. Here, you are pointing a finger, using hikmah (wisdom), but at the end you state that you feel something wrong was done to you. It is the orange light, in that it puts people on the defensive.

CONTEMPT (AND DISRESPECTFUL MEANS)   

On putting this across you roll your eyes. It is disrespectful, you tell people they are stupid, you insult/hurt them or make them look small or humiliated. 

The problem with contempt is that though in the course of presenting the problem you are able to state what your grouse is, the manner of your presentation provokes the ego of the person being complained to, to feel insulted.  The insult becomes the issue not really the complaint itself which might be genuine. This is the red light. This spoils relationships. As a Muslim, you should not insult, hate, or disrespect another person.

As we work with organizations, volunteers, or teams, we should know that if we elicit or solicit for black hat or negativity, we will get it. And if we ask for the positive, we will also get it. Therefore, be careful what you ask for. As people give opinions, don’t get stuck on their initial judgment. Take cognisance of the fact that what they are suggesting is just one way of thinking but that there are other ways of thinking beside theirs.

You have graduated me, how do I know my standard in the eyes of others?

FIRST DRAWING

-A drawing of flower almost 3d in beauty

-“If anyone has any problem with any part of this piece of art work, please use the brush in the paint container and put a black dot on that part of the drawing”

-The whole picture was black and the graduand was dejected.

SECOND DRAWING

-Another drawing nearly as beautiful as the one before was done .

-“If anybody likes something in this drawing please put a white dot on the part of the drawing you liked”.

-The whole drawing was painted white. And the graduand was confused as to whether he was a good artist or a bad one.

Nobody touched the blank canvass.

This shows that if you ask people for the negative, people will give enough negative that will demoralize you. If you ask them to look for the positive they will look for enough positive things to elate you. Don’t let the positives or the negatives prevent you from looking for alternatives. It is easy for people to criticize. It is also easy for them to praise. But it is very difficult for them to wear the green hat and be creative or come up with a better alternative. When nobody can give you a better alternative, then you know you have gotten your best idea.

As we conclude on this topic, let us appreciate the need for shura i.e. the need for consultation, the black and yellow hats. They are needed.  They might sometimes be too dark or two bright, but we need them. So, let us get others in communicating with us, and we communicating with them. Let us manage ideas. Avoid contempt, disrespect, or violence. In short, any negative side/type of communication that makes other people react in the opposite way. 

Thank you very much for attention.