The Value of Knowledge – Jason J Briggs
Jason J Briggs tells #TesseTalks the value of knowledge and the importance of robust debate, having alternative ways of listening to views you don’t agree with and keeping an open mind that can strengthen decision making.
Jason’s topic shows how vulnerability and authenticity make for a successful and authentic organization. Board members excel when they are transparent about the process they followed in how they arrived at the course of action. The organisation he served on as a board member raised £1.2m for a capital project. They succeeded because they believed they could and so did the people they served.
As board members we need rational thought, emotional intelligence, intuition, kindness and compassion. East meets West when we use the Tibetan Debate approach. This teaches empathy, increased understanding and bridges differences. Meaningful and polite gestures such as clapping have meaning. The holding of the left hand is wisdom, raising the right hand represents the fulfilment of compassion. Bringing the two hands together in the clapping motion represents the joining of method and wisdom. “It is important to understand the rules in place and know what is permitted. This is where Codes of Governance can play a part.
Return on Character : The Real Reason Leaders and their Companies by Fred Kiel puts the spotlight on what drives the culture of ethics. Strong character leaders tell the truth, keep promises and own up to their own mistakes. These leaders react with curiosity, treat people as people and are consistent in behaving equitably, inclusively and purposefully. Insight, foresight and hindsight come together to strengthen collective intelligence. The leadership team and the board set the tone at the top with cultural norms and expectations for the entire organisation” says Jason.
Stephen Covey in Speed of Trust. reminds us that keeping trust is more important than ever. The 4 cores of credibility intent and integrity (foundational attributes) and capabilities and results (visible attributes) offer an applicable framework. Knowledge feeds into all of these and leads to enhanced creativity and continuous learning. Armed with knowledge when leaders tell the truth, keep their promises , own up to mistakes and behave with intention, attention, transparency, accountability and commitment, they can’t go wrong in an uncertain and unpredictable world.
Paula: 00:00:00 Welcome to TesseTalks with your host Tesse, Akpeki, and co-host Paula. where we share with you top leadership and management strategies. This is a journey of discovery. We are learning that leadership is personal and professional, and we hope you will walk with us on this journey today. Our guest is Jason Briggs.
And Tesse, and I will be talking with him about knowledge. I’ll tell you a bit about Jason. Jason is the co-founder of Pyro Talks. CIC ,Consultant partner for BWF Europe and fellow for Halpin partnerships. Prior to that, Jason was the director of development at Cavendish cancer care consultant at Graham Pelton, head of research and insight.
And member of the Senate’s academic research ethics committee at the university of Sheffield and their development coordinator for learning, or the fourth age, Jason was awarded an insight in fundraising in 2016 for his innovative work on international philanthrophy and Case Europe Lane Moore Award 2017 for emerging development professional.
He holds a first class degree in history and philosophy and a diploma in fund raising management. Jason, we are honored to have you. Wow! You are one impressive young man. Welcome to TesseTalks.
Tesse: 00:01:43 Hi, Jason, it’s lovely of you to come and I’m so glad you accepted the invitation to join us today. And I, you know what struck me when I met you first, Jason was your thirst for knowledge.
I just love the fact that you’re passionate about knowledge. So what is knowledge in your eyes and why are you passionate about it?
Jason: 00:02:03 Yeah, I think when we spoke about various things, we could cover ,knowledge came to mind because it’s not particularly spoken about in a huge way, in terms of the, not for profit sector in my experience, but also it’s been a lifelong passion of mine.
Really. There’s nothing to say. That knowledge is a lifelong passion because we all enjoy education and benefit from education and so forth. But I think in particular, I was really interested in knowledge in an abstract way to What’s the best way to learn what actually is knowledge and are there any different ways of learning and coming to know things.
And so in a way that kind of first to want to understand is almost been like a thread throughout my whole life, really from a young age. And that’s what led me to study philosophy in the university and the history because of the way it is about interpreting the past. And that’s a piece of knowledge. Yeah.
And then that led me to Tibetan Buddhism really understood that for many years and studied Tibetan debate for 10 years, and that’s a very particular unique way of absorbing knowledge. So it’s just been a huge theme of my life.
Paula: 00:03:10 Wow! That’s fascinating. I’m listening to you and I’m like, wow, so what led you into this and how do you put it into practice?
When I say this, what led you into the pursuit of knowledge and how do you put it into practice?
Jason: 00:03:26 I think what led me to the pursuit of it was trying to understand in some ways, how do you develop the mind and I read philosophy books from young age and so forth. I found them amazing, fascinating and I just absolved them one after another. When I went to university, and studied philosophy, and this may sound bad, but it’s not in a disrespectful way, but I became a bit disillusioned with the topic of philosophy itself. Even though that was all about knowledge and so forth, and it was because some of the lecturers that I met.
Again, it’s not in a disrespectful way, just didn’t feel particularly happy and nor did they feel particularly sociable either. Some of them felt like they weren’t well within themselves and even philosophy was causing them damage and that’s what led me to want to understand. How do you get knowledge into the heart?
Basically from the head into the heart and that’s when I got more deeply into Tibetan Buddhism, and I felt later that they had achieved that aim the age of Greeks, probably out of a method to do it. The modern guys probably will get in there, but weren’t quite there these days where these guys needs to bet and seems to be absolute experts at it.
And they could seem to get knowledge basically from the head into the heart.
Tesse: 00:04:35 Jason, what that journey looks like when it goes from your head into your heart and it comes out somehow in that way that it’s aligned. What happens in that space?
Jason: 00:04:47 Yeah, that’s the key thing, isn’t it? That’s the thing that I’ve been fascinated with and there’s lots of different ways.
I’m just going to go on a bit of a tour of really my experience of working in this area and I’ll just illustrate their views and things. So there are different ways of understanding things. And I think this really relates to practice as managers, leaders, whatever, not for profit. We’ve never properly. I don’t think asked the question.
What’s the best way of learning fundraising or what’s the best way of learning charity? There is some great work done in it, but it’s often siloed or in pockets or in monopolies and I don’t know if we always get the benefit as a result. Yeah. So the different things that they say on understanding knowledge is and this, you might say there’s about five different ways of learning things.
Is their argument? One is: direct perception, which is quite obvious when you observe someone doing things and you learn that way. The other one is influence, which is like logic, debate, reasoning and they say that’s how you get hidden things. So things that are not known to you directly, but you can infer; so that’s inference.
Intuition is a valid form they see, which I think is quite interesting in the culture I’m from. Intuition is almost disparaged so in some ways. You can’t rely on intuition in some ways. And so people rely on it fully. So it depends on how you are, I guess there. Then they say scripture in this case, but really what we’re talking about is books and authors and reputable authors and so forth.
And the last one is extra sensory, but we don’t need to go into that and that’s a bit more on their kind of religious side of the fence, but yeah. So then on that journey, then getting from the head into the heart is to understand really the difference between direct perception and inference in their experience.
Direct perception is becoming one with your experience really it becomes part of you. So let’s say you want to become a more compassionate individual and there’s very different journeys there in that point of view. One of those is again, observing individuals and seeing that compassionate mind does this for people, compassionate people appear lovingly are beautiful and you want to become like that or something like that, so that’s kind of proof.
Then inference is the main one that they use though and they call it an analytical contemplation. Or , their word Tibetanmeans “he’s gone” and that means meditation or it’s translated as familiarization.
What they are saying is you’ve got to take the time out of your daily life to familiarize yourself with the new way of thinking and being and so forth and that’s all meditation is for them. We big that up in the West really . Meditation is this profound thing, but actually their word really means familiarization.
You’re just becoming familiar with anyway, thinking and on the analytical basis, you would then present to your mind values, different reasons and logic as to why being compassionate is beneficial for you and others. The reason you should be compassionate and the reason there’s similarities between you and other people and so forth.
You keep contemplating like that until you get the direct perception and feeling of words, of compassion in the mind, and then you hold it and you rest on it and then you repeat that process and you do that in one session repeatedly. Then you do it over weeks, months, years, and all the time, your mind becomes more and more familiar with a different way of thinking.
That then eventually tips into direct perception. So you go from influence to direct experience called the compassionate mind and that’s their process. They do that in all different things though not just things like compassion and training in reasoning and into the process of absorbing knowledge really clearly.
That’s what I found absolutely profound and I’m not really seeing that. I didn’t really see that in that Western philosophy or anything like that and it seemed to be really an Eastern thing where that had been really strongly laid out and so that’s the explanation of it.
Tesse: 00:08:26 That’s very fascinating because I’m thinking about a governing board because I work a lot with governing boards, trustees, board of directors, and so on. How would this apply? Like your typical board room meeting or something that is happening in a committee or working party? How would they be able to apply these kinds of concepts around knowledge to how the operators as a board and how are they going to be effective applying them?
Jason: 00:08:50 Yeah, exactly. That’s the question in it really and, but there’s a number of ways. I think one is on a more kind of a interpersonal skill basis is really understanding the benefit or what you might call the positive emotions and I agreed to it, it connects with a guy called Fred Kiel, and he’s one of the few researchers s in the world to really research character across the CEOs leaders and so forth and his work is fascinating. He wrote a book called moral intelligence and another book called return on character and he’s spoken at PYRO Talks and really, at the moment I’m reading through it and he did research questionnaire, really for hundreds of top leaders across the world.
They mapped out their character traits and then did a load of data analysis, proper data analysis, and found a correlation between good character and increase in profit, increasing success. And that was true for not-for-profits too. They researched them too, and it included the for-profits, but the percentage of the benefit of the uplift, in returned from displaying good qualities as a leader was far more than they thought it was possible.
In some cases it was 500% increase on return of assets as they called it. Being a good character and so there’s that aspect. You can train that for your team and you take these methods and you develop your own personal characteristics and therefore become a better leader as a result.
So you’re going in both, that’s the direct way of doing things. And the other one might be, especially when it comes to charity and fundraising. Another piece of research that I’ve looked at, it shows that authenticity is one of the most beneficial characteristics for a fundraiser to have, for example; and they’ve shown that if a donor believes that. So someone might say, give it a big gift here. 500,000, a hundred, whatever, a million and so forth. If that donor believes that the fundraiser sat in front of them, who’s soliciting that gift would give the same gift without the same amount of money if they believe that or if that person then. They are usually in the top 20% of fundraising performers in the organization and it all comes down to that authenticity, or they believe that this person really convinced in the cause themselves and if they had the money, they would give the gift as well. And that for some reason, or maybe obvious reasons makes them really effective as fundraisers.
There’s a way that if you understand the process of absorbing knowledge here, according to their system, which is you utilize it analysis and inference, logic reasoning until you’ve got direct experience would be like of what you’re trying to understand. Then you could say you could become familiar with your cause in that way, as you keep becoming familiar and analyzing on a weekly basis, the benefits of your organization, what you’re trying to achieve and so forth.
Over time, you increase your own authenticity, the data without realizing it, they may attend every week meetings with frontline staff. For example, if you’re a fundraiser or you are working with cancer patients or animals or so forth, and they don’t realize, but what they’re doing is becoming familiar or gong meditation, then becoming familiar with the cause and that’s why they become more authentic fundraisers. So those are the two ways I think that kind of understanding can be applied.
Tesse: 00:12:03 Yeah. So what I’m hearing is something about authentic governance, which has been collective authenticity through the board. I like that very much.
Jason: 00:12:12 It can be consciously cultivated. That’s I guess the point when you understand or explore the idea of knowledge and how we acquire it and what’s effective and what isn’t, then doesn’t have to be so stuck in a way of governance governing board. Doesn’t have to feel so rigid and it can be a more fluid development experience for everyone involved. These are various processes that people can adopt to increase those things. Like you say authenticity. Totally. Yeah.
Paula: 00:12:38 I like it, so fascinating listening to that, then enthralled. I was going to ask you, what’s the connection between knowledge and not for profit on how do you align them, but in listening to what you were saying, you’ve answered that question, but I do have another question listening to all what you’ve said, what I’d two or three things that you think that you would like listeners to take away from everything that you’ve told us.
Jason: 00:13:01 The chronology in different ways. It can be a conscious thing, more conscious than we may realize. There’s that aspect of it, every aspect of all this, when it comes to knowledge in the sector, and is that I think there’s different views.
Isn’t there in the sector about various different causes and organizations and so forth. I think I’d like to see more debate, really more discussion on some of the harder issues that we try to tackle with. And I don’t always feel like that’s very clear in the sector, whether or not. You can absolve a view that you disagree with and I think that in some channels, especially some social media things can get quite heated or even unfair at times and I think the sector sometimes sways into that kind of finger-pointing thing, but all that’s happening is over people are on different learning trajectories or so forth. And I think that needs to be accepted and embraced a bit more.
The reason I say that again in this context is one of the things that they do in the East is if you’ve got different views of what they would consider incorrect or wrong views, as they call them, they would literally have you sit in the debate courtyard and take on the stance on believing in those things. If you debate them as if you believe those things and the other person debates back and then over time, the idea is you will see in your own mind why those views are wrong and then so then you move on to another different school of thought and then you debate those and again, you’ll eventually see why those views are wrong.
So they really embrace what you might call wrong views really wholeheartedly and use that as a teeth cutting exercise or whatever you want to call it and I think we could adopt that approach a bit more in the sector definitely.
Tesse: 00:14:38 .
This is so rich. I’m learning so much here. The different ways of learning, what I’m hearing also from you, Jason is actually encouraging robust debate, but also being open to different options and different ways of doing things and arriving at a place where people
(particularly in my case, I deal with a lot of board members) where they’re on the same page, not just in the decision itself, but how they arrive at the decision. So there’s a journey towards decision-making rather than just rushing at somewhere where there are lots of people being left behind and actually having respect for difference.
That’s what I’m hearing is that about, right?
Jason: 00:15:13 Definitely, so I can understand and see that alternative views are okay. They work to help produce better views, longer term, and that’s their view. They debate the wrong view so they can get better at understanding that right view, literally. That’s why they do it.
The other thing that’s fascinating from my experience of learning with these Tibetans really is if a debater gets angry, you have lost the debate and you’ve got to leave the courtyard (Laughter) If you get angry and you’ve lost! I think we see a bit of anger in the sector, like finger pointing, and then it should be this way. It should be that way, whether it is going to be that way, but you ain’t going to do it unless you have a cool debate with someone and they may not change their mind there and then , because that’s not really how minds change.
If shown it’s more about tribe mentality, whether someone changed their mind or something like that. But you also don’t know who’s listening and someone said to me, once I was in these debates online or something or wherever, and they said, I don’t know why you bother. The person is not going to change their mind. My answer was yeah, fine.
But you don’t know who else is listening and you don’t know what else is watching and those minds, you could be changing. You could be changing every one of them and in fact, I’ve had that experience loads of times, scrolling through this, that, and the other and see my mind change. But one thing I don’t think anyone’s man changes for me is when people attack someone with anger and that’s the kind of experience I’ve had, and that’s what I thought was beautiful about their debate – that was the courtyard debate.I still am to this day, but if you get angry you’re off, get out and come back. Yeah. So it’s so interesting.
Tesse: Wow A court yard experience!
Paula: 00:16:41 , I see that in the light of it, treating people or talking to people, relating to people and the way they like to be related to it, as opposed to we have been taught for the most part that you treat people the way you would like to be treated, but we also different. So the way I want to be treated is not the way you want to be treated because we’re different. But if I treat you the way you want to be treated, then I’m going down the right way, because then I have a better understanding of who you are and you’re more receptive to listening to me or even wanting to talk with me because I understand you from where you are by meeting you at the point of where you are.
Jason: 00:17:23 Totally. And that’s exactly why they to swap views and try and defend them and be the challenger. And that’s all for that reason to understand in a governance contexts, in a coaching context and in the cultivation context, the idea of people call it devil’s advocate, perhaps in our culture.
Maybe there’s a bit more of that needed in boards, consciously creating that environment and allowing that environment. So you’re going to take this view and you’re going to take that view. You say the things that from your point of view that you think are right or correct or incorrect, and I’ll say them from my point of view and we’ll play different people and we’ll see where we come to in terms of our decision-making. It could be a really interesting exercise for boards that perhaps are stuck on certain decisions, who knows? Yeah.
Tesse: 00:18:02 I love it. Now talking about different things, you’ve been to so many things in your career and you’ve done so much. What would be your favorite or your highlights in your career? What’s the biggest aha moment that you can share with us?
Jason: 00:18:16 The one that I think that stuck with me because I guess it was special, really undergo keeps circling around this, but it’s in terms of career and skill, what I’ve been involved in when I was learning for the Fourth Age, which is a, an old age care home charity, I put volunteers into care homes and incidentally, funnily enough, it was all about learning and getting old people to learn again, in care homes, as an activity, a health benefit and so forth and that had to close because the government at the time created some really progressive policies and they shut down a load of voluntary organizations and we lost loads of volunteers and over time we ended up having to shut and it was really sad cause of all the people we’re helping and I’m thinking I’ve never once been that position again where we have to close something because I’m not able to raise the money.
We weren’t doing any fundraising at the time I should say, we were social enterprise and we were paying for an exchange and I wanted us to do more fundraising and what we didn’t get there and we couldn’t really because the resources were out at the time and so yeah, I said to us, I would never want to be in that position again and that’s how I ended up working in fundraising and ended up getting a job at the university of Sheffield as a prospect researcher and building up from there and really learning the process of fundraising and child development and so forth. Eventually what that meant was I was able to use those skills of fundraising to help causes that I cared about.
I ended up becoming part of a trustee board called Land of Joy, which sounds a bit intense – land of joy. It is actually a Tibetan word, just translated, so you have to do what you can. Sometimes I don’t know if it always comes out perfectly. That means, Tishita, which is something in the East, but basically, yeah, what was fascinating about that was that this person, wanted to create the retreat centre really in remote part of the UK and it was just an idea and we actually went from an idea to reality, and that was an amazing wild moment. And from literarily it was just an idea. We want a retreat centre in this part of the world and we created the case for support.
So we’ve made some images and drafts and writing and so forth. That’s both relationships and the processes and how we manage those relationships. And eventually one day we got a donation of 1.2 million pounds. We bought the place inSunderland and then we got this mansion really, and just got 52 acres of land or something like that and were able to build a retreat centre and now we’ve got retreat houses and so forth and it’s just amazing.
Yeah. So that was fascinating. The idea of it literally was a thought that went to reality and that’s what, wowed me, and I’m not on that board anymore, but I was there for six years and I would say my contributions to that was minimal, but to see that happened was one of those wow moments.
Paula: 00:20:43 I think it’s also totally mind blowing to know that you were part of this because as I said to the listeners, they can’t see you, but Jason is young compared to Tesse and myself
Tesse: 00:20:53 Talk for yourself Paula, I am younger than you.
Paula: You are. That is true!
Tesse: You’re looking great.
Paula: 00:20:56 Some of us are older than we look. That is Tesse’s and I’s mantra (Laughter) . On that fun note, I want to ask Jason this fun question. Tell us about your favorite emoji. Yeah, we love to ask that question to everyone. I hope you have one?
Jason: 00:21:06 Yeah, I think I’m not sure I have a favorite one, but I have one that I use the most. Which is basically that one way, it kind of sticks the Tongue out and it’s smiling and I use that one all the time. I don’t know why, but it seems to make things that you say.. better.
Tesse: 00:21:21 I love that one. That’s like Maverick in a nice kind of way and taking yourself not too seriously. I just love that as well. Nice one. One of the things we also ask is for our listeners, if there’s any offer or gift you can give to people listening in who wanted follow up after this, is there anything that you can offer them?
Jason: 00:21:43 Follow up with me or follow up with some of the things I spoke about. Yeah, we’ve ourselves pyro talks, the organization set up recently and the aim of that really is to break open knowledge in a way and not that there was some great knowledge out there already, but we’re trying to do things a little bit differently and just as an example, one of the things that we’ve been doing is presenting knowledge like in a Ted talk format.
So when in shorter bursts and things like that, and especially in this online world that we all enter in and people have found that enjoyable. I just say. Come to the website, www. pyrotalks.com and see all the different things we’ve got going on and there’s plenty more different things going on there, including this thing we are calling nano guru and that’s about people, six minute videos of collecting from leaders and they all share free things in the best career advice they received, the best career advice they can now give and how to excel tips and tricks and how to excel in that particular field. They’ll just short videos like that but they’re so interesting, like what you get, like I’ll be receiving these videos from leaders across the sector, and normally I am in my car, I’ll put that on in the background while I’m doing some work. And I just find myself listening and watching every single one because they’re so good.
Then the other one, I would say, if anyone wants to think about the whole knowledge side of things, I would check out, Tibetan debate, and there’s various organizations that can help people with that one. You might say it’s called the FPMT – foundation for the preservation of Mahayana tradition, but really debate is outside of any religious context.
So yeah, Tibetan debate is simply to google around and I will look up and it is all about pure logic and logic has no culture and it has no strings attached. It really is like that and the way they teach it is like that and it’s one of the most beneficial things I’ve ever been involved in.
Go into detail more about how it actually works, that’s equally fascinating and all I can say is, if anyone knows some of the European history is fit similar to the Greek dialectics in Ancient Greece. That sounds a little bit out there, but that’s the kind of stuff we’re talking about and it’s really interesting just to read about, so I would just give it a go.
Tesse: 00:23:52 Every time Jason, that I meet you, I’m so fascinated by your knowledge. I’m always touched by your character, by humility and by your leadership and I just want to use this opportunity to thank you so much. From the bottom of my heart and I’m sure from the bottom of Paula’s heart, I’m sure she feels the same way about having as a guest on the show for actually making the time to share with us your fascinating insights.
We hope that we’ll keep in touch with you, just you again, work. Where can people see you? Where can people meet with you after this? How can they get in touch with
Jason: 00:24:25 Yeah, definitely. My email is Jason.Briggs@pyrotalks.com and again, on the website and , Jason J. Briggs on LinkedIn and people always say, Oh, why do you use your middle name?
If you Google Jason Briggs some really weird stuff comes up but I always put Jason J Briggs honestly, and that’s why I do it. So Jason J. Briggs on LinkedIn. And yeah, I’m really open to anyone reaching out and that’s how we met. Isn’t it Tesse?
Tesse: 00:24:50 So Jason, J Briggs, thank you so much for being here and then we moved back to you, Paula to your lasts words really.
Paula: 00:24:57 Jason J breaks. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you and now to our listeners, make sure you head over to Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere else, where you listen to podcasts and click subscribe. If you like what you’re hearing, please write us a raving review, five stars, please.
If you have questions or topics you want us to cover related to leadership and governance, send us a note. Remember, it can be personal as well as professional and if you want to be a guest on TesseTalks, please head over to firstname.lastname@example.org/TesseTalks to apply. Thank you all.
Jason: 00:25:43 Thank you.