The lesson from the party hall and what people from different vocations see on entering is that people are quick to see what they’ve been trained to see, and are slow (and sometimes unable) to see that which they haven’t got the training to see. All the cues and signals were in the room available to every person entering, but not all signals registered as important. Each person focused on what they had the training to see, and filtered out that which they didn’t.
This lesson is essential for people who are trying to re-imagine effective work. When looking at a current work process, business model or other situation, your training and background have a large impact on what you can see, what you can notice, and what you can pay attention to. Your training tells you what is possible while studying the current reality, which means:
- There are some aspects that will be easy for you to imagine or envision around. You will be able to see these with great clarity, and be able to describe these as a basis for action with incredible precision (e.g., “A document library with metadata on individual items will allow presentation based on role-specific attributes held in the directory, which will increase relevancy and decrease time-to-completion for this task.”)
- There will be other aspects to which you will be blind, hazy or foggy. You will only have an arm-waving non-specific sense of direction, and will not be able to describe or explain with anything beyond broad generalities (e.g., “We would benefit from a system that helped track customers better.”)
This lesson has three implications for practice:
- Be aware of your own sightedness and preferred mode of vision. Know what you will be able to see easily, and know what you can’t see easily. For example, if you have spent a lot of time learning the ins and outs of SharePoint, you will see the world through SharePoint shaped glasses, but for example, won’t be able see the usefulness of Yammer because you haven’t been immersed in it.
- If seeing more is important in your work, study so as to extend your ability to see in new ways. You will need to decide what the “more” is, and define a pathway for being able to learn those skills. For example, your “more” might be what’s the impact of office design and floor layout on collaboration patterns? Or how can the needs of extraverts and introverts be addressed in re-imagining effective work? Or if you can only see the world through SharePoint shaped glasses, what does Microsoft offer in Teams, Planner, Yammer, and the other capabilities in Office 365 that could be useful to individuals, teams and groups?
- Take a collaborative approach to seeing. One person doesn’t have to see it all or know it all. Who are the other people you could work with that bring complementary sightedness?
Beware getting stuck with limited vision due to putting on blinders and not growing beyond those. What we know about software, office design, and collaboration principles provide a form for carrying out tasks in new and different ways, but they also provide a mindset that limits what can and can’t be done.
Re-imagining effective work requires seeing the right things, which usually mean learning to see more.