I was sitting in my favorite coffee shop this morning preparing to write something about framing when a woman outside caught my eye. She was motionless on the sidewalk of a busy street below where streetcars and heavy traffic move constantly. The scene looked something like this:
My camera shots don’t show everything close by – the woman crossing the street was almost run over by a passing car, a streetcar or two passed, and a bike nearly ran into the woman on the sidewalk. Her world was framed by a device that measures about 2.5 x 5.5 inches. As you can see, she was totally absorbed in it.
We are shrinking our frameworks – and ironically expanding them at the same time. Our phones allow us to go anywhere in the digital universe. The question is whether the digital framework will affect our sense of possibility in the real one.
Most of us have been exposed to the diagram puzzle below where we are asked to connect the dots using only four lines without lifting the pen/pencil from the page.
The square is a shape that we know all too well and the shape suggests a straight-forward solution – except that it takes five lines instead of four. The real solution requires us to move outside the frame.
We can observe that we first focused on numbers and measurement in trying to find the solution. But what we have to do is place the image in a much larger box to see more possibilities
The new frame doesn’t necessarily have to be square. It could be a rectangle or ciccle. It just has to be bigger.
When we look for new possibilities, thinking quantitatively will not always work. Other elements also come into play in real transformation. Moving from one frame to another can depend upon seeing relationships – sometimes with people, but also relationships in a universe filled with “joy, grace, awe, wholeness, passion and compassion” as the writer of The Art of Possibility says. When we expand the frame, it opens up more than we can initially ask or imagine.
When I started this blog – which followed one created many years earlier – the tagline was suggested by a book by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander – entitled The Art of Possibility. I first met Ben Zander on a TedTalk, where he introduced a bunch of techies to classical music. The Talk has still maintained one of the highest ratings ever – over two million views. Their earlier book showed how both he and his wife have inspired many to bring out the best possibilities latent within themselves.
The new book, Pathways to Possibility, is even more explicit. Written by Rosamund Stone Zander, a family systems therapist, it resonates with another of my favorites in the field – Ed Friedman. She unpacks the reality that most of our negative aspects arises from our own experiences as children, and unless we recognize and re-frame such experiences, they play into everything that we do as adults. We can either recast them as memories – things in our past that no longer have control over us – or see them as part of our continuing story and growing maturity. Her message is simple but profound. I have seen this in action when another practitioner in the field helped a woman re-write a negative story and it changed her whole attitude in an instant.
Reading this book – and watching Ben Zander coach his music students on YouTube are excellent lessons for anyone who wants to initiate change – as another wise colleague has said – we have to be the change that we want to see happen. Try these!
I was told last evening to keep my presentation short. In other words, the fewer words the better. I knew that there was an overly-tight agenda. I had doodled a few words in the morning but I didn’t know if there would be a projector. So rather than taking the time to create a slideshow, I used the photocopier.
If I were more confident I would draw this while speaking. Doing it this way though means that people have a take-away. The principle is that what we remember what we see better than what we hear. This is the doodle and an approximation of the script:
It’s the year 2020. The leaders have a vision. They see us with 225 people in the parish church every Sunday (compared to 150 now) a balanced budget about $150,000 higher – and the place full of people. They went to our parent body over here on the right. (I held up a copy of the full proposal) The diocese has similar goals and they have money to help. So they did – the carrot is money for new staff. We will expand from one-full time and two-half-time people to three full-time and two half-time. That’s a big jump in a single year. The stick is accountability. That comes with a coach who guides us for the seven years. He helped us clarify what we want to do – which is to:
- Have more members
- Have more money
- Make our parishioners disciples who reach out – and by their example welcome and nourish others. That’s our mission.
Our next budget reflects these goals along with a road map for 2014. The road map, called a work plan, describes what to do, who does it and when.Each goal has its own swim lane. We report to the coach every quarter. The last doodle bottom right is the org chart. (I held the real one up). It shows all the key players. You are on the edge supporting the inner circle along with your working groups. I’ve attached a sample of the 2013 work plan so you can see how it’s laid out. We’re still improving the one for 2014. I’ll send it to you in digital format to save paper.
Even though I couldn’t spell accountability correctly, the points got made – in 273 words. While this is a specific context, you can adapt the pattern to your own needs. Try a word count on a typical written report and compare. It’s not what you write or say that matters, The real test is whether anyone hears, reads, gets it or remembers.
This video link should stimulate your appetite to learn more about visual thinking. It’s worth noting how many forms you know and are already putting into practice yourself.
Here’s a diversion that is more than worthwhile:
The prime responsibility of the leader is to provide the vision and mission of the enterprise – whether it be a business or an organization. Sometimes the job is to create it. Sometimes it is inherited and the task is to foster it and in some cases refine it. More than anything the leader is accountable for it.
A major responsibility is not only to define the values but to be able to articulate them. An organization needs to become even more of what it is. It is easy on a day to day basis to become deeply mired in administrivia, but the leader always has to commit us to our highest purpose – one that always seems just beyond our reach. If the purpose and the principles are right, the rest will follow.
Cardinal Newman was not the best marketer of change. Fewer people all the time sing the words of his hymn, “Change and decay in all around I see”, but the link between change and decay has stuck – especially in the heads of those who were old enough to ever sing the words. But we don’t go backwards. Instead we have to focus on the impact of our actions for future generations and manage for the innovative and diverse world we now inhabit.
When we redefine change as creativity, some will respond positively. It is not enough to think that we can stop with making problems go away. We might have nothing left. and it is not so much what the vision is but what the vision does. We need to encourage tangible prototypes and build positive results that become stepping stones to the next stage.