How to Create More Aha! Moments in Policy Creation and Systems Change Work

I work with individuals and organizations working toward social justice — the equitable distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges — across broad social constructs such as socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity, and gender identity. LightWell coaching partnerships create sacred space for leaders across sectors of society — non-profit, public, and for-profit — to bring into consciousness and evaluate the impact of the beliefs and behaviors that influence their work. A key component of the coaching partnership is a conscious effort to distinguish between and recognize the value of both analytical leadership and what I call ‘Aha! leadership’.

Policy creation and systems change work requires a number of analytical skills, though not exclusively. Problem articulation, critical thinking, process orientation, thorough reporting, and decision analysis are without a doubt important competencies to posses when considering frameworks for resource distribution. Both society and science have placed much value on the ability of leaders to display these qualities. In short — articulate, linear, and methodic behaviors seem to rule the day. But what if we’re missing a key piece of the equity generation equation?

Scientists at Drexel University are cracking the code on an otherwise undervalued way of problem solving: the Aha! moment. As the research shows, these seemingly unexpected strokes of genius are more than fortuitous instances of clarity. Furthermore, there are proactive behaviors which have the potential to unlock more frequent experiences of heightened awareness of new possibilities and unprecedented advancements — Aha! leadership moments — within spheres of policy creation and systems change in the name of social justice.

If that isn’t enough good news, here’s more: we can use these tips in many contexts beyond policy creation and systems change work!

1) Turn everyday actions into meditative moments. Transform your daily routines like washing dishes, bathing, folding laundry, and walking into moments of inner focus. By concentrating simply on the motion of inhaling and exhaling and clearing the mind of the inner monologue at play, we create space for the ideas which live on the margins of our consciousness to come into view.

2) Visualize success. It is as simple as it sounds, and it works. By bringing into focus the outcomes we seek in as vivid of detail as possible, we can begin to see new pathways to this desired state. The act of visualizing, when performed regularly, serves as an invitation to broaden the parameters in which we articulate social justice outcomes and the expanded mechanisms we utilize to manifest this view.

3) Ask the right question. In addition to having a clear problem statement, it is important to frame your quandary in the form of a succinct question. Aim for articulating this question in 10 to 12 words for the best outcomes. The more succinct you can be, the more targeted your spontaneous solution(s) will be.

4) Embrace right-brain activities. Our tendency to rely on analytic thinking for problem solving is a result of a ‘left-brain’ dependency. To ensure full access of the space between our ears, and the creative problem solving pathways that are nature’s gift to humankind, don’t shy away from activities which engage the right hemisphere of your brain. Writing, doodling, playing and listening to music, improvisation, and dabbling in the arts are all great ways to amplify the potential for spontaneous solutions, and as a result, Aha! leadership.

Policy work and systems change that lead to more just and equitable communities will require leaders who maximize the use of their mental faculties — analytical and Aha! thinking, alike. Creating the conditions necessary for Aha! leadership can lead to breakthroughs which ultimately catalyze new opportunities for communities where access to resources previously did not exist.

To learn more about LightWell’s coaching partnerships and schedule a free Introduction to Coaching Call, visit www.lightwell.xyz.