Hi Leader,

You need to listen to what you say to find out what's going on. New insights often show up in your conversation, if you are paying attention. In this KEY I will share one such conversation. You will discover a powerful tool to build your mental prowess and develop framing skills with the conversational bungee-jump exercise.

As always, your comments are welcome. Please forward this KEY to friends, family and associates.


Aviv Shahar

The "What's Next" Ladder

I recently spoke with a highly successful coach. We have been doing peer coaching for a number of years. "What are you focusing on today?" I asked. He replied without hesitation: "There are two questions every person on Earth asks daily.

The first is "How can I provide for my loved ones?"

The second question is: "What's next?"

"Yes" I agreed, and then made the mental bungee jump: "There are seven levels to the 'What's next?' question".

"Really; what are they?" he replied.

I've been playing with conversational bungee jumps for some 30 years. The exercise is simple. First you state that there are 3, 4, 5 or 7 levels of "What's next" and then you follow through to find out what they are. It's a great way to sharpen your mental agility and build intellectual fire power. You create a riddle you are committed to solve and then you come up with the solution. Some of the most powerful frameworks that I teach were discovered and developed in this way:

  • The three-legged stool of collaboration.
  • The three pillars of trust
  • The five buckets of intelligence
  • The five dimensions of resilience
  • The four chambers of the accountability heart
  • The three propulsions of great organizations

Back to the "What's next" conversation. Here are the seven levels that revealed themselves through this jump:

The 7th level, at the bottom of the hill, is survival. Over 3 billion people live on less than $3 a day. Their focus must be on where the next meal comes from, and what's in it.

The 6th level, one step above subsistence, is improvement. Once the next meal is secured, people begin to ask: What's the next improvement? What part of my current condition can be improved?

The 5th level is learning. Learning is a permanent human impulse. It comes fully alive once subsistence is resolved and conditions are improved. The inquiry in this impulse is: Where will I turn my interest to now? How will this next learning help me get ahead.

The 4th level is play. Once survival needs are satisfied, conditions are improved, and learning opportunities are found, there is a relief that ensues and with it comes a change in the nature of "What's next?" It shifts into: Where can we play and have fun? Where is the next entertainment?

For many, life is a game of recycling through improvement, learning and entertainment. For some, "What's next?" goes beyond these endeavors.

The 3rd level is service. Here the inquiry is: What will I serve next? Where can I add value and contribute? Who will I help and how can I create new learning opportunities? The service impulse brings about a polarity shift, where the receiving is in the giving and the benefiting is in the contributing.

The 2nd level is mastery. Working to create a contribution awakens the thirst and inquiry of mastery. As you seek to master the domains you serve you ask: What's optimal? How will we master our opportunities? Where and how can I lead?

The 1st level is evolution. Evolution is the permanent impulse of the universe. When we become universe-like we ask: What is the next evolution and transformation? How will we reinvent our ecosystem? What next new futures are we creating?

Here is the seven-fold framework of "What's next" from the bottom up:

  1. Evolve
  2. Master
  3. Serve
  4. Play
  5. Learn
  6. Improve
  7. Survive

Next time you work on developing innovative ideas or new steps, look at the problem through these seven levels. Ask yourself, "How can we meet the needs of each level? How can we help shift from one level to the next?"

And the next time you mentor and coach someone, begin by finding her or his inquiry level so you can tailor your questions and guidance to best meet her or his needs.

Now it's your turn. Turn the key. Develop your intellectual fire power. Practice the conversational bungee jump. Listen to what you say to discover new insights. Apply the "What's next" ladder to help your people create new futures.

© Aviv Shahar