Missing the big picture

Today I recalled the tendency for my early career performance reviews to be positive, “but David, you need to learn to see the Big Picture.” I always left feeling a little stupid because I didn’t know what to do about it. I also felt frustrated because those telling me I needed to see the big picture couldn’t even explain what it was, let alone how I should get there.”You just need to learn how.”

At every moment we are limited to observing only what our Way of Being allows us to observe – even if it is objectively there for another to see. To change how we are as an observer requires a perturbation in our nervous system. Telling someone they are not seeing the big picture is not enough. 

For this change to occur there must be an observer of how we observe. Only then can we make a positive change.

An episode of Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares is on in the background as I write. Gordon is the coach helps failing restaurant owners observe what they are unable to observe themselves.

When you’ve hit a wall and don’t seem to be going where you need to, get someone to help you observe what you can’t see yourself. That somebody can be a coach, words written in a book/article, or a podcast. It can, with practice, even be ourselves. The process is called second-order learning.

The Experience of the Soul

I found this quote whilst reading about knowledge as a flow, a fascinating topic in itself.

There can be no knowledge without emotion. We may be aware of a truth, yet until we have felt its force, it is not ours. To the cognition of the brain must be added the experience of the soul.” Arnold Bennett

“Ah-ha!”, “The penny has dropped” and “Eureka!” all speak of the moment when the experience of the soul meets with the cognition of the brain but none are quite so elegant as this quote. Why does it take both brain and body to fully understand something? Some insight can be found in the field of Ontological Coaching and its assertion that body, language and emotion are not separate but that changes in one influences change in another. This suggests that to really “get something” you must involve all facets of who we are.

Is it any wonder that “knowledge management” by database archival doesn’t work.

On Wednesday, Alan Silcock and I worked with two groups of people in our Knowledge Game workshop. We started by perturbing them in such a way as to force experience and cognition of knowledge together. Participants entering with a theoretical understanding of knowledge (and that includes Knowledge Managers) experience first hand their own behaviours, perceptions and habits around the use of knowledge. As suggested by Arnold Bennet, there is a force behind the knowledge and emotion that sweeps the room and in some cases is strong enough for people to cry “Ah-ha!”.

Think back to your own “Ah-ha!” moments. Was there a wave of emotion that you felt through your whole body. Some may even describe it as relief. What a challenge for knowledge workers to create this type of environment – regularly – in the corporate world.

I’ve been unable to find anything about Arnold Bennet, the originator of the quote. If you’re able to find something, please email me.