There is much truth in that old Irish saying, quoted this week by Charles Handy. Or, as the great management guru Peter Drucker said when Charles asked him how he learnt. "By listening", he said, "to myself".
I have always found that I work out my view or understanding of something by talking about it. It gets my brain connections working. And I don't think its just me. The logic is simple. If you want people to work out what they think about something, give them time to talk about it. Break up your presentation with time to talk to your neighbour. It is a very simple technique but one rarely used.
Charles was talking at a brilliant Common Purpose event, organised by the irrepressible Julia Middleton, where a range of leaders gave one hour presentations - giving those of us attending a choice every hour of which to go to. Charles had other pieces of wisdom to share:
"In 15 Indian languages there is no word for teach, only for learning."
"Great teachers tell stories. That is really all they do."
"How can you turn your students into teachers so they really learn?"
"Everybody has something good in them"
"You need a purpose that is bigger than yourself - a passion. You win people over with the infection of your passion, never by force feeding them."
"You need to keep on living vicariously for the triumph of others, taking secret pleasure in their achievements that only you know you have played a part in."
A very wise man, of great humility. I felt lucky to have been able to hear him.
And a very interesting thought from a member of the audience: "If you are not a bit scared about delegating to somebody, then you are not delegating enough." I might come back to that one.
Note to Julia: I know the event was under "Chatham House rules" (confidential) but Charles Handy was kind enough to give me permission to quote him.
"I never try to protect my ideas. I've told every idea I've ever had to as many people as possible", Mike Harris Mike is one of the UK's most successful serial entrepreneurs, having built 3 billion pound businesses (including the internet bank Egg). And I like that approach.
Mike went on to quote Jeffrey Sachs: "When you share an idea, it gets bigger"
I was once asked by a journalist how we protect our intellectual property. My response was that we give it away for free on the internet. I was referring to the manuals that are our most concrete product. We do now charge for them (at www.happymanuals.com) but it is still true that any IT training company can easily obtain and use all our step-by-step manuals. Or learn the secrets of our training approach, Learner Focused Training. In contrast I remember attending a session on how to succeed on the internet back in 2000. "First, hire a lawyer" was the advice from one expert. Indeed a survey at the time found that internet entrepreneurs put getting the legals right at the top of their list and customer service at the bottom. Not surprising, perhaps, that most of those companies are not still around.
So if you have a great idea, tell people about it. Get their input get their thoughts, make it bigger, make it better. And one final thought from Mike to cheer us up in these challenging times:
Henry Stewart is founder and Chief Executive of Happy Ltd, a training company that has won widespread awards and recognition. This includes being rated the best company in the UK for customer service (by Management Today) and the 2nd best place to work in the country (Financial Times).
Outside of work I am a keen cyclist and have cycled the etape, the public stage of the Tour de France. I am also Chair of Governors of my local secondary school, which my 3 children attend.