Tag Archives | Tunnel Vision

Notice


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Once upon a time, we went car shopping. We went to the used car lot, looking for not one but two cars, since we were already looking for a second car when I hit a deer and totaled both our (only) car and the deer. (That’s another story.)

We finally settled on two cars – both of which happened to be from Mitsubishi. But at one point I asked, “Why aren’t there more Mitsubishis on the road? Why aren’t they more popular?”

The salesman (and my husband) looked at me as if I were from Mars and said, “Are you kidding? They’re all over the place.”

You know what? They were right. They were everywhere.

I had just never noticed them.

Until I started paying attention.

Paying attention

Rollo May wrote (in either Love and Will or The Courage to Create) that the root of the word “attention” is the word “to tend.” What does it mean to tend to something? It means “to care for.” Thus, he pointed out, people pay attention to things they care about. That seems like a pretty obvious statement, but it stopped me in my tracks. It made me think, and it has shaped my thinking ever since.

Noticing

What if I hadn't noticed the reflection in this traffic mirror? I would have missed a great photo.

In Creating Space for Wonder, I wrote about the importance of Noticing: “I can create space for wonder by paying attention to the world around me.” Since then, I’ve begun noticing that other people are writing about the importance of Noticing as well.

Havi Brooks of The Fluent Self wrote a wonderful piece about a recent exercise she went through with Dave Rowley of Creative Chai that was focused on Noticing. Then Karen Caterson wrote a delightful piece for the Captains Curious, in which she described a situation where Noticing that she had fears and an agenda made it possible to set those fears and agenda aside.

Noticing Noticing

It makes me laugh that I am noticing Noticing. It just does.

Maybe I am only noticing it because I am paying attention. I have started to care about it. Or maybe more people are noticing… things. And writing about it.

And one of the things I am noticing about this phenomenon is the relationship in these articles between noticing and freedom.

Noticing and Freedom

Yes, freedom.

Havi appreciated the freedom of just Noticing what was happening without any obligation to do anything.

Noticing her reaction to a situation freed Karen to handle the situation differently than she might automatically have done.

By Noticing what is happening around and inside me I am able to create space for wonder and free myself from the encroaching walls of concern and worry.

Noticing can free us from reacting automatically to situations.

Noticing can free us from worry and future-tripping. (Unless all you notice is what reinforces your reasons for worry. That’s a whole other topic.)

Noticing can free us to choose our next step.

We are free to choose what we notice, although sometimes life whacks us in the head and we can’t help but notice something surprising.

What have you noticed lately? Anything surprising?

To what do you pay attention? What does this tell you about what it is you care about?

Jazz Requires Systems Thinking – and Living at the Edge of Chaos


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The other day I was talking to a friend who loves jazz, and it got me thinking.

One of the many things we touched on is how, unlike classical music, which is played pretty much as written on the page, jazz is by nature improvisational. This means that players weave an ever-changing tapestry around a single theme. It is a group discussion, where participants take turns talking. Like a group discussion, it works best when all of the participants listen to each other and respect each other’s turns.

I was reminded of how I recently saw a foursome comprised of McCoy Tyner, Ravi Coltrane, Esperanza Spalding, and Francisco Mela, and how I was struck by how smoothly they managed the transitions between full-on playing by the group and solos supported by the others. The solos were long and far-ranging, sometimes played with clear intention and sometimes with wild abandon. The four clearly listened to each other playing, they played to support the others when it was not their solo, and they watched for signals about the transitions.

Jazz musicians enjoy a great deal of freedom but, like freedom in other contexts, it works best when that freedom is exercised with awareness of and respect for the other members of the group and for the group itself.

And within that context, magic can happen.

It occurred to me as we were talking that jazz requires systems thinking. It requires awareness of the system, and awareness of how changes affect that system.

It requires agreement from the participants to support the system and each other.

When participants don’t support each other and the system and they focus only on themselves, indulging in tunnel vision, the result is noise. Chaos.

And yet – jazz also requires living at the edge of chaos.

How aware are you of the systems of which you are a part? Whether the system is a work group, an organization, a committee, your family, or a sports team, how well does that system work if the members don’t think beyond themselves? At the same time, how flexible are those systems? Do they support creativity, innovation, improvisation?

Creativity, Change, and the Edge of Chaos


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Not so long ago I wrote about chaos and our fear that chaos is the only possible outcome – and a negative one at that – of trying something new. In that post I wrote about the importance of suspending disbelief in the idea of a positive outcome. (You can read that post here.) I even went so far as to suggest that Chaos is not necessarily bad, at least as a transitional state.

Well, in a recent blog post at Rise of the Innerpreneur, Tara Joyce writes that Chaos is the result of too much structure – and the result of too little structure. What? Chaos as a result of too much structure? That’s right. Most of us would probably accept without a second thought the idea that Chaos is at least a possible result of too little structure.  But with too much structure, a system strangles and the system fails, also leading to Chaos.

When a structure is changed or taken away, we fear chaos. I wrote about this in another blog post about my recent experience with circles. At a recent conference that was held in Open Space format, the typical conference structure did not exist. But that lack of structure did not result in Chaos: “It was somewhat uncomfortable, at least initially, for those who are more comfortable with Structure – even if they admitted it was only so they could resist that structure – but there was no Chaos.” There was likely no Chaos because the old, rigid structure was replaced with a different structure. Even a change of structure can feel like chaos must be just around the corner. But we have to live at the edge of chaos in order to change.

Tara makes an excellent point:

“Living at the edge of chaos

This is where life and creativity exist. They can’t be limited by too much structure or failed to let unfold in the moment through too much planning.

It’s a process of listening to, and trusting in, the ideas within us; then revealing those ideas through our action.”

I love that. The edge of chaos as an ideal state. In order to grow, in order to thrive, we must live at the edge of chaos, whether in business or elsewhere in life. I would also submit that living at the edge of chaos is an antidote to tunnel vision, which is a symptom of too much structure – in thinking and beliefs, and in human systems.

In my earlier post I proposed that Chaos is not necessarily a bad thing – as a transitional state. You know how when you start a major house-cleaning project, it always looks worse than when you started? That is Chaos as a transitional state. But maybe it is really the edge of chaos – it simply brings Chaos from being part of the wallpaper to being front-and-center while a new order is created.

At the end of my earlier post, I asked these questions:

Can we suspend our disbelief in the possibility that the outcome of trying something new can be anything other than anarchy, failure, or ridicule?

Can you suspend your disbelief long enough to give it a try?

Now I reframe those questions: Are you willing to live at the edge of chaos in order to make a space for creativity, change, growth?

And I add this question: Are you willing to help others step out onto the edge?

Coincidences and Beliefs and the Importance of Why


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I have learned to pay attention to coincidences. If something comes up multiple times within a short time frame, it gets my attention.

Many people rely on the Rule of Threes, or the idea that things happen in threes. But when it comes to coincidences, I am willing to stand up for things happening in pairs. After all, if you think about someone, and then they call you, aren’t you usually willing to say, “Wow, what a coincidence! I was just thinking about you!”

In fact, just the word “coincidence” points to a minimum of only two events. “Co” means “with” or “together,” and “incidence” means “to fall on.” So only two events happening together can be a coincidence.

This may not appeal to statisticians who look for at least five data points in a certain direction before they are willing to pronounce the existence of a trend. (That’s for another blog.) But I submit that it only takes a couple of incidents to get my attention, and a pattern of events really gets my attention. It doesn’t have to be trend, just a Coincidence in order to make me stop and ask questions. A Stereophonic Theory of Incidents is fine with me – I don’t require Quadraphonic Incidents or Surround Sound when it comes to noticing something and making me wonder.

Case in Point: Multiple Events have come up recently that asked me to stop and think about my beliefs and the effect of my beliefs on my actions.

In their Triple Impact Practitioners Programs, Michael Broom and Edie Seashore recently asked participants (including me) to stop and think about their beliefs about support that guide their behavior about getting support for themselves. Hmm. Then we were asked to consider where those beliefs may have come from and whether they are appropriate now. Hmm.

Then, within only a few days, Marcia Wieder, in her Dream University’s “90 Days to Transform Your Life” program, asked participants to articulate their beliefs around their dreams, and to think about whether they are limiting beliefs or empowering beliefs. Hmm.

Double Hmm. Within only a few days, I have been asked to stop and think about my beliefs, many of which I take for granted, and how they affect my actions and the choices I make. That was enough of a coincidence to really get my attention.

If we take some beliefs for granted, how do we even identify them? How do we bring them forward, or to the surface, so we can look at them objectively?

I think that asking the question “Why?” is a great tool for this. If I make a statement, or a decision, or a choice, such as “I couldn’t possibly do that,” “I must do X,” “That person will or won’t do that,” or “The universe works this way,” and then I ask myself “Why?” (or “Why Not?”), the answer is probably a Belief. It may be helpful (or even necessary) to ask “Why?” several times to get to the core belief. (Or the Root Cause, in the language of various Quality programs, although they do not typically talk about Beliefs. Consider the “5 Why’s” of Taiichi Ohno’s Toyota Production System and Lean Manufacturing.) Once that core belief is uncovered, I can then ask myself why I may have adopted that belief, whether I really believe it, and whether it still makes sense.

This can be a very useful practice for identifying why I may say one thing but do something else, or why I may have trouble with X, Y or Z. It can help me to be authentic, to be the author of my own life. It can help to shine a light on the beliefs at the root of tunnel vision. Because the truth is, we can choose what we believe, once we stop and think about it. Coincidences may make us sit up and notice things, but we do not believe things because of coincidences. We believe things because we choose to accept them – or not.

If you are facing a stumbling block in some part of your life, whether it is a pattern of events that trouble you, or a project that has gone poorly, or a relationship isn’t what you would like, or you are stuck in some way, think about the statements you have made about it and then ask yourself “Why?” Then ask “Why?” about the answer. Take the elevator to the ground floor and see what is there when the doors open.

It might be scary, and you may feel like you don’t have a net. Don’t worry, we’re here to catch you.

Bobby Fischer Teaches Systems Thinking


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Yes, Systems Thinking. Disguised as chess.

One of the great challenges that faces small business people – and big business people – is tunnel vision. Ever wondered how it can be dangerous, and how you can overcome it? Consider the following…

I’m reading “Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess.” No, I’m not a brainiac. I’m just a person who has taken up chess again after more than 30 years and I’m tired of getting my pants beaten off. So my chess partner recommended this book, and after a few more humiliating defeats I went out and bought it.

I go to bed with Bobby Fischer. I ride the train with Bobby Fischer. And I have to say, this is a great book. It’s very simple, consisting of picture after picture of scenarios where you’re asked to identify whether or how one side could either checkmate the other or escape checkmate. You’re given the answer on the next page.

Like I said, very simple. My six year old niece could probably absorb this very quickly and then she could beat my pants off, too.

Well, I’ve been reading the book, and one of the key lessons that are being pounded into my head is to remember to Watch The Entire Board. Brilliant strategies fail miserably when you overlook the one thing in that corner over there and a Bishop zooms in and takes your Queen. Ouch!

I was struck by another important lesson the other day. Bobby and I were taking the train into the city, and I was getting a lot of the answers right – more than half, anyway. There was one scenario where I was pretty sure the answer was, “No, White can not checkmate” Black in this scenario. I turned the page and…. Doh! Wrong again! What? Surely not! Oh. Again I was looking at the board with tunnel vision, thinking about the possibilities only in certain ways, and I completely forgot that a Queen can move diagonally as well as forward and backward. Doh! That’s pretty basic.

And so I would have missed an opportunity to solve a situation quickly because I forgot about the capabilities of one of my pieces.

Which made me think: How often do we in organizations fail to utilize all of the talents of the people on our teams because we overlook their ability to move diagonally as well as up and down? How often do we limit ourselves by forgetting our own capabilities? How often do we miss opportunities because we don’t even see the opening in that corner? Or we see it, but think, “Oh, I can’t do that” or “I don’t know anyone who can help.”

If you’re feeling stuck or at a loss for ideas, I highly recommend that you spend $7.99 on “Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess” – and that you read it. Not so you can obliterate your opponent, or even avoid getting shellacked by your opponent. But it may change the way you look at situations and people – including yourself.

And you’ll look like a brainiac on the train.

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