I trained originally as an engineer – at heart I’m a designer and problem solver. Pretty early in my career I realised I was less interested in the technology, and more curious about how people worked. For over 30 years now I’ve applied an designer’s curiosity to how we make choices and decisions, and how we connect with the work, each other and ourselves.
My journey so far has included technology, consulting, innovation, performance, leadership, change, creativity, teams, conversations, coaching, somatics. I explore a lot.
The puzzle that started me on the journey was this. How do you handle the ‘triangular’ nature of change and problem solving i.e. creating and evolving solutions, handling the different perspectives of the people involved, and handling our own filters and reactions to what’s needed. We like to believe it’s the quality of an idea – often our idea – that will convince everyone to agree.
After all this time, I know that’s not true, but I now have some other ways in. And because I’m practical, I want things I can remember and use in the pressure of the day to day. So, the territory of making new sense of things has three components: questions, conversations and breathing.
OK, so they are simplifications, but only slightly. It turns out the best way to have more impact is to pay attention to things you already do, and tweak them slightly.
Asking thoughtful questions is the best way to break patterns and make better choices. The fundamental questions for sensemaking are introduced in this short talk I gave in 2019.
Conversations matter because, whether we are turning things over in our own head, or talking with others, we need to explore different perspectives. But more often our patterns and differences get in the way. There’s an art to productive conversations.
And finally breathing. I expect you to do it for a long, long time, but in this sense it’s a practical shorthand for learning to manage the very real physical and emotional reactions that happen when things don’t make sense, and stress kicks in. You’ll see in the video I was very slightly hyper myself that day – very excited, slightly nervous, lots of adrenaline.
All three things – using questions well, conversations with people who see things differently, managing our reactions and making progress – are essential to navigating the complexity of the world we are creating, and getting creative about making new sense of it. It takes practice, but it can also be fun. Ask me how.