I watched the film Body of Lies last night. The leader of the CIA said to his agent ‘we are very solutions focused organisation….We need results’. His result was nearly the death of Di Caprio’s character, while the seemingly more obtuse and relational activities of the Jordanian intelligent chief saved the day. We are left with the impression that despite the might of power, and seemingly logic of ‘cause – solution - action’ there is no guarantee of certain outcomes in complex situations.
This is a portrayal of two completely different mindsets. One the linear – ‘A’ must have a ‘B’ while the other lets ‘A’ be the start of a process, of a pattern. Which is more appropriate? I don’t know, but I do see that being able to think in both ways has lots of advantages.
Broadly speaking westerners think in sequential patterns while many other parts of the world allow thinking to be more open, not sequential, and ask ‘why ‘A” – what caused it’. By looking at the initial reasons the expectation is for new reasons to emerge, new thoughts about the thought. It’s a discovery process that allows time for new ideas, patterns and possibilities. It allows the variations without the need to control the outcome. It can be very irritating to the linear thinker!
I see some applications to coaching and for business.
In coaching paying attention to the possibility of patterns, of fractals, of repeating events, spots patterns and habits in our lives. This could be as simple as keeping an emotional log – when did you feel stressed? - as a means of avoiding dissociation (not really me) and spotting that events are often linked. This gives the chance for change.
Great coaching questions never ask ‘why’ - a closed question inviting a conclusion - but instead ‘what is happening here?… does this show you anything?....were do you want this to go? This journey of discovery in the dialogue is of actual use as the individuals are making their own thinking and so are engaged.
Real change in individuals or business both need different answers. Great business books like ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’ suggest a more circular approach to thinking; promoting commercial success comes through finding another alternative (E.g. Circe de Soleil – circus + theatre with a higher price and completely new market space) The possibility of finding a variation in your pattern, a creative new part still within the whole, makes commercial sense as you already have the resources. How much better than always seeking ‘the new’ with long J curves of investment?
In both business and personal lives giving room for both ways of thinking is likely to give eureka moments of clarity. The challenge is to spot our patterns as individuals and for business to give room for non-outcome processes as ground for change.
Business as usual is no longer true, so why only support the right of linear thinking as gospel? For my own self, having created multiple business ventures over 30 years, many have started with both mindsets – linear and structured while feeling for new answers about what this is as a business anyway.
It seems to work.