The Real Big Picture Is Your Own Personal Experience

Dawn Flight.  Photo courtesy of John Fowler.

I think we’re entering an era where the real big picture is just a composite of individual subjective experiences.  I’m sure this concept has been done to death by a bunch of great philosophers, but I want to lay this out in simple terms.

As we look at workplace disruptions, it seems each disruption just blurs into the next in an overall environment of unwieldy surprises that we can’t get on top of.  Amazon has begun to displace bricks-and-mortar retail, trade and immigration have let to major political disruptions everywhere, Artificial Intelligence is expected to change jobs significantly, and the gig economy is disrupting work relationships in many ways.  In each case, it is a combination of technology and globalization driving big-picture disruption.

The Ground Level View of Big-Picture Change

Yet the real-life impact is personal.  I encourage you to step away from the objective birds-eye view and consider that you yourself are affected by these changes.  These changes affect the work you do, how you get goods and services, and probably your personal life as well.  You don’t have an opportunity to sit still even if the changes are favourable to you.  And if the changes are unfavourable, you are put-upon to mitigate, resist, or take better advantage next time around.  We’re anxious and we struggle with the acceptance of ambiguity.

Now, let’s switch back to the birds-eye view.  If you are in human resources or if you are a leader in some way, you must also consider the perspectives of many employees trying to make their way in a similar manner.  You’re probably expected to help guide them.  This means that you need to foster a general environment of empathetic relationships, trust, and an awareness of context.  While some of the impacts of change are measurable and technical, first you need to help others become comfortable in their own skin.

First Build Your Own Resilience to Change, Then Help Others

You can’t help others with this until you have gone through the process yourself, and figured out where you place yourself in this crazy world.  If you’re a fast learner, you can figure yourself out before you’re obliged to teach others to do the same.  It’s like the airplane safety demonstration; install your own emotional oxygen mask before helping others.

What is most significant about this business environment is that it heralds an era where people outrank the system.  You can talk all you want about how we should organize citizens and families and employees towards their best efforts.  But if you attempt to advance a birds-eye view of people at all times, it begs the question, are you just some bird in the sky?  When people are standing on the ground and a bird sails past, under what circumstances are they concerned about the bird?

You can attempt to prescribe a vision, foster collective purpose, and create policies and systems that are somewhat universal.  But then one person puts their hand up and says, “what about me?”  And you’re stuck.  You’re stuck because you want to say the same thing.  And if you take a moment to look at peoples’ eyes, you realize we’re all thinking the same thing.

Look at the desks, the walls of the buildings, and the mouse under your hand.  These physical things have no soul.  So what’s so special about your organization?  The secret ingredient is you.

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