Use Binoculars, Not a Magnifying Glass

Both a magnifying glass and binoculars enhance vision, with one providing the micro and the other the macro in details not available to the naked eye. Scientists in different fields embrace one or the other, developing the ability to use their selected tool to see with incredible detail or over an incredible distance. Some things you need to see close up, and others are only available for viewing from a distance.

In re-imagining effective work, both are useful. A magnifying glass reveals the current details of what is, while a pair of binoculars the bigger picture and wider industry trends suggesting what could be. One constrains your vision to the small circle right in front of you, and the other puts the small circle a significant distance down the road, clarifying what is otherwise just fuzzy or unseeable.

Binoculars provide clarity of vision for where you need to end up, but you can’t take the next step while looking through a pair. Binoculars offer the motivation for the journey, but not the mechanics. The destination, not the details of how to get there. The why, but not the how. But without the why, the destination nor the motivation, there’s no immediate compelling sense of taking the next why-aligned step.

Using binoculars in re-imagining effective work means looking for and at:

  • The change that’s happening in the wider world – beyond your job, your organisation, your industry. What wider environmental, geopolitical and businesses trends will impact your organisation soon? What new business models could come (or are coming) crashing down on your industry? Where could the next unexpected competitor come from?
  • The 3-5 year outlook for your industry. Some changes will be fundamental and structural, threatening the very survival of your firm – not just the current way you work or organise a process. Stop fixating on optimising soon-to-be-irrelevant processes.
  • The journey your organisation and industry has been on for the past 10, 20 or 50 years. Turn around and look back down the road through those binoculars. Where have you come from? What were the inflection points and pivotal moments? A historical view contextualises your work and organisation at a point in time on a longer journey of change, development and improvement.
  • What the leaders in your organisation are saying about strategy, intent, competitor forces and market changes. If they’re the ones with the largest pair of binoculars, it makes sense to pick up cues. Likewise for the leaders in competitor firms – what do they see, where are they going, where are they investing differently?

When binoculars are used for wayfinding, there’s always an immediate next action or pathway to follow to get to the pre-viewed destination. Sometimes that means taking the next step, and other times it means changing the journey. But first you must see.

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