What Do You Do When You See Things Differently From Those Around You?


Saturday, 7.25pm

Sheffield, U.K.

The limits of my language means the limits of my world. – Ludwig Wittgenstein

There are a lot of things worth learning out there.

That’s the purpose of this blog – to wander around a garden of ideas, looking, sniffing and picking ones that seem interesting or different.

And along the way, the way I look at things has shifted.

For example, I no longer think much of targets and tracking and effort.

The way most people are taught the way the world works is that they should set goals, decide what their targets are going to be and then go ahead and make it happen.

If you are working with other people who aren’t achieving what you think they should achieve – you should set them targets and monitor their progress to see how they are performing – and take corrective action when they fall short.

This kind of thinking is seen as normal, reasonable – of course you should do something like that.

But, if you are interested in Systems Thinking and the work of W. Edwards Deming, then you will counter that what happens is because of the system.

The system you have in place is perfectly designed to deliver the results you are getting.

If you want to get different results then you don’t start by setting goals and targets – you start by understanding the system and then you might see what you need to change to get different results.

Yeah so what, you say, that’s the same thing.

Start with targets and change how you act is the same as changing how you act and getting different results.

At this point, you are in a conversation that has no resolution.

Let me explain why.

Many years ago I used to go to University sessions where someone would talk to you about their religion and why you should consider making it yours as well.

I went to my first session by mistake – I was told there would be cake there.

I kept going because there was free food – but there was an obligation to talk to someone about What You Believed.

And it was fun, for a while – but eventually, after a number of discussions, I had a pretty good feel for how the argument would go.

They would say this and I would counter with that and then there would be something else with another response – and eventually we would come to certain points that had no way of being proved and we would have to just agree to disagree – because we believed different things.

It is difficult to resolve differing beliefs – it’s probably best not to try in the first place.

But that leaves us with a problem – what do we do when we see things differently?

Well, to boil a lot of theory into one simple, obvious approach – we have to take the time to listen.

We try and understand the other person’s point of view – their perspective – the way they see the world.

We don’t have to agree with it but we do have to take the time to try and see it for what it is.

And then, if we want to work together or live together we need to figure out an accommodation – a compromise – that will work for us in the situation we face.

A compromise that will, hopefully, make things better.

But don’t be lulled into thinking this is easy.

As we see from the world around us and the politics that happens the easy route is to hate and fight.

It takes effort to build a society that can live under common laws – especially if individual perspectives are very different or are subject to different laws.

It’s not really a cold end state that we get to – but rather one where we simmer instead of boiling.

Because in the end we share the same world.

Even if one of us happens to be looking at it upside down.


Karthik Suresh

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