Abstract thinking leads to greater creativity… But in our businesses and our lives, we often do the opposite. We intensify our focus rather than widen our view. – Daniel H. Pink
We’ve all met practical people – people who want to get on and get the job done.
Perhaps you’re one of those people.
A no-nonsense, down-to-earth sort of person.
You know what you know and believe in the value of experience.
If you don’t know how to get it done you’ll find someone who does.
In the process, you’ll surround yourself with good people – a team – and your business will do well.
Or maybe you’re a restless risk-taker – some always looking for the next opportunity.
Someone ready to experiment and invest in the new. A Richard Branson type who starts an airline because he’s delayed on a trip and figures he can do better.
It can seem like those are your two options for how to go through life.
Either be someone who actively experiments and changes the world.
Or be someone who is solidly planted in the real world.
Be a river or be a rock. Those are your choices.
Or are they?
An article by Beverley Kaye in the book Learning Journeys is an interesting example of how to think about this.
Dr Kaye writes about her experience defending her doctoral dissertation.
She was a checklist sort of person, a get it done sort of person.
She was prepared and ready to check off the defence of her dissertation.
Except, she ran into trouble.
She was operating from her flat side, she was told and needed to get more rounded.
But what did that mean? And how could someone so practical and in the real world get their heads around that?
And it’s not an easy thing to do.
You know the story of the unreasonable person.
Reasonable people adapt to the world around them.
Unreasonable people adapt the world to themselves.
All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people.
Those hard-headed business folk, whether rock solid or fluid experimenters are unreasonable people and have given us products and services that have changed lives.
Externally anyway – not so much internally.
We’re stuck in a consumer society and many people, although they are technically among the wealthiest in the world don’t seem particularly happy.
What’s lacking is inner change.
The Kolb Cycle says there are four ways to learn: active experimentation, concrete experience, reflective observation and abstract conceptualisation.
The first two are easy to recognise – we all start with flat heads.
The ways that round us out are harder to understand.
Can you look back at your life, at the days you spend – just look at them without criticism or judgement and try to see them for what they are?
How did that last meeting with a prospective client go? What worked, what didn’t – was she happy, difficult, neutral?
If you were someone else looking at your life what would you see, what would you think?
And what would you think was going on – how would you conceptualise the situation?
Or, more simply, how would you explain what’s going on?
To see things for what they are and come up with an explanation for why they are what they are is an attempt to round out your thinking.
To try and see without filters, blinders or anything else in your way and to try and look for explanations that are clear and plausible is the way to get started.
And then, if Dr Kaye’s experience is anything to go by, then one day you’ll just get it.