Archiv der Kategorie: Meaning design

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Caught in perspective

The battle for the truth is becoming increasingly difficult in the VUKA world. Wherever something happens, observers document the happenings with their cell phones. And if there is no other evidence, then the blurred and out-of-focus images become the one angle on the event. The same applies when journalists make a report with pro-shots. In both cases, we only see an image frame. Everything outside the edge of the image and beyond the horizon remains hidden from us. Even with multiple positions, we only get the selected views. These can be enriched by “original sound” to remember afterward sights that we did not see at all. Every single person is caught after that in the subjectively noticed perspective.

The surface of a screen or a monitor corresponds to our field of vision. We always form an image from a specific perspective resulting from the following aspects.

  • The biological blueprint
    Our perception is limited to visible light with 400 to 750 nm wavelengths. However, we see the best 555 nm during the day and 507 nm at night. Outside these ranges, we are blind. To reveal ultraviolet and infrared, we need technical devices.
    Further limitations are created by the field of view of our eyes that has 214 degrees horizontally and about 150 degrees vertically. Our eyes at the forefront of the head provide only slightly more than half of the all-around view. Of course, we can turn our heads to where our attention is directed by our senses (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, or olfactory). At the same time, other areas disappear.
  • The biased awareness
    We receive far more sensory data than we think. However, the healthy brain blocks most stimuli from the environment or our body. Otherwise, we would be entirely overwhelmed by the flood of influx. These filters are less active in people who suffer from, e.g., autism or ADHD, resulting in concentration difficulties, loss of reality, or hyperactivity. Our awareness usually sticks to one point, leaving the fabled multi-tasking ad-absurdum. We consciously handle one thing at a time and blank out the rest until we turn our awareness elsewhere and lose sight of the previously perceived case.
  • The filtered consciousness
    Not only is our perception filtered, but details are also omitted. Our consciousness would be overstrained to assimilate ALL details. Therefore, we work with mental models, metaprograms, and analogies. They relieve the storage by linking already existing patterns with the current observations. We add the most salient novelty to our ideas. In doing so, already stored contents are sometimes erroneously related to the observed happening. We know this from witnesses of accidents who provide divergent opinions regarding the course of events, the people involved, and other descriptions of the incident.
  • The Unattainable Unknown
    Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote, “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” Similarly, our conceptions represent the limits of our perception. We overlook circumstances because we do not know them. This blind spot arises from the rejection of specific facts – here, everyone is treated equally; we do not bully. This veiling occurs when those involved cannot, are not allowed to, or do not want to let go of their prejudices, or if they lack the imagination – our cars can only run on non-renewable fuels; employees need someone to tell them what to do. If we cannot recognize something, we describe it with generalities – this is like …; it resembles …; the thing is …
  • The limiting horizon
    In addition, our view only extends as far as to the personal horizon – differently in a group without realizing it. Looking over the edge requires additional effort. To see behind it, we have to go in the desired direction. At the same time, the horizon is shifting, and facts are disappearing as a result. If we stand by the sea, we can see four kilometers far. A monster wave can already build up directly behind the line of sight, which will flood our beach without warning.
  • The infinite number of vantage points
    All previous aspects concern the point of view of individuals. In a team, we broaden our vantage point. Several people complement each other. A typical SWAT team approaches a threat with one person monitoring the front and another the rear area. A group can observe more aspects, enabling more significant collaborative insights than individual observations. The different experiences and perceptions of the dynamic personalities allow more permeable filters. What is otherwise unknown to some can jointly be used through a timely exchange. Eventually, several people create a joint extended horizon by skillfully distributing the individuals and regularly exchanging their observations.
    However, there are ALWAYS more angles than are described.

Bottom line: We need to be aware that we are trapped in our perspectives, no matter how far we expand them. Our biological and rational limitations can be extended by opening up additional perspectives as a team. It is especially true in the VUKA world, where individual angles are volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. We need to let loose the belief in one truth. Any contribution, whether from within our group or from outside, can make the difference that makes a difference. We only persist in the VUKA world if we are open to rethinking at any time – based on new insights and events. With all the expansions of the range of vision and the abilities to adapt to changing circumstances, we should not forget that we always remain caught in perspective.

The VUCA world

Isn’t globalization accomplished by now? The networks of business and technology have reached even remote regions. The next stage would be cosmolization – increasing the reach into space. Colonization of the Moon and Mars is foreseeable, though not on a large scale. At the same time, small events in Macondo, Colombia (e.g., the flap of a butterfly’s wings in South America) produce significant effects in the Great Plains (tornadoes in Tornado Alley). In other words, small changes in initial conditions lead to unpredictable, potentially huge consequences. Our ability to predict is limited because the world is made up of many components, relationships, states, causes, and continually changing impacts: new ones are added, and old ones come to an end. The mechanistic worldview has led us to believe that our sphere of life is a complicated clockwork that we can understand, subdue, and control based on smart analysis. In the meantime, we know that this conception does not fit the world. The “machinery” changes so rapidly that we can neither understand it nor consciously respond to it in the available time. We call this new dynamic complexity VUCA.

VUCA is an acronym for the essence of our unstable world – volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. Each term illuminates individual characteristics previously referred to as complicated, chaotic, or complex.

  • Volatility
    The perceived speed of change in our environment is accelerated further by advances in IT. The computing power, the speed that moves data from A to B, and the ubiquitous RFID transponders generate an unimaginably growing stream of data. Factual information gets updated faster than ever and is available everywhere through the World Wide Web (WWW). The data has already changed before it reaches the user, not to mention being processed. Consider the stock market, which conducts more than four transactions per millisecond – that’s more than 136 million trades a day. People cannot keep track of this flood nor have sufficient time to react in a reflected manner. The resulting short-lived meaning, the volatility, requires new approaches for dealing with this apparent availability of figures, data, and facts (FDF). We do get revealing patterns that help make decisions. However, divergent views are delivered simultaneously, leaving us Lost-in-Info.
    The mixture of systems thinking, info-literacy and intuition offer a way out. Local actors can proceed appropriately in realizing tasks with a clear description of the current situation, proper long-term foresight, known stakeholder requirements, desired outcomes, and sufficient available resources and freedom.
  • Uncertainty
    It is not just about the amount of data that floods biz but also the data being redundant and thus inconsistent. Despite the abundance, usually essential details are still missing. Some things are described, and others are omitted. It creates a deceptive gray area with many possibilities that are not always necessary. As a result, divergent opinions clash, which must be discussed, intensified by different interests. Many futures can be derived in times of transition, as with the introduction of new biz. In the end, decisions are made under uncertainty.
    Flexible principles and justifications are desirable to simplify the decision-making process. All stakeholders need to secede from uncertain or outdated logic and rethink how to manage the fuzzy tasks – moving away from predetermined approaches to thinking based on probabilities and overarching perspectives. The new paradigms must be instructed to all stakeholders in training sessions.
  • Complexity
    The unimaginable number of components, relationships, states, causes, and effects creates a dynamic complicatedness, which we call complexity. However, the individual parts do not remain stable as in the mechanistic world view, but they change their speed incessantly. The particular situation cannot be described conclusively in the available time. Let’s take the interactions between traffic parties – pedestrians, bicycles, cars, trucks, buses, streetcars, trains, and airplanes. All move through the close-knit traffic network according to their rules. By the time the current state is captured, all the parts have already changed their position unpredictably. Since complex issues can never be fully apparent and described, a tsunami of data floods our attention and causes endlessly missed predictions.
    Dealing with complexity requires elaborating and explaining simplistic, coherent models with the support of beliefs, biz models, and paths into the future. At the same time, the complexity of tasks requires appropriate, diverse skills. All participants contribute to expanding the company’s ways and means through active trial and error.
  • Ambiguity
    Most cultures are just a click away from us. Rival beliefs and various explanations hit each other unprepared. One’s mindset and context distort expressions. Ambiguous leads inevitably create misunderstandings. If, for example, a monochronic meets a polychronic attitude, it puts a strain on cooperation – when, on the one hand, the desire for punctuality and, on the other, an open approach to time stresses both parties. Decisions are made in heterogeneous groups based on assumptions that can be understood differently.
    Explicit clarifications are needed to bring the ambiguity to a point through clear expectations, agreements, and common terms. It includes describing the bigger picture, clarifying nomenclature, and sharing a common view of the circumstances at hand. A shared understanding emerges if daily routines and rules are available to all. Clarity is in the eye of the beholder and requires a proactive, open exchange of views across levels and silo boundaries.

Bottom line: The expanding VUCA world is burdened by our daily lives due to the seven-plusminus-two chunks we can process. The overwhelming complexity, which is continuously changing, ambiguous and unreliable, disappoints our hope for simple, available approaches. Despite massive IT support, we cannot compensate for missing abilities to process VUCA. On the contrary. The additional content should help but reinforce the VUCA world. The outlines and detailed evaluations lack time to take effect, as new differences in the smallest initial parameters occur at any time and lead to unforeseeable consequences. The mindset of those involved in a VUCA world needs McGregor’s theory Y. It is extended by systems thinking as well as designing, communication, and coordination skills with more room for intuition.

Last but not least, the VUCA world needs the skillful preparation of data more than ever. However, software no longer provides answers but only the basics for needs-oriented decisions. We need new ways of acting since there is no going back to a simple if-then. The world is today VUCA.