For many problems there are no quick solutions.
There is too much going on, too many people are involved, it is hard to get a grip.
Trying to tackle these wicked problems can be stressful. But there is something you can do to find resolution: You have to get a better view of what is going on.
Let me show you how that works.
We often do not look thoroughly
Looking is more than focusing your eyes on something. Your ideas about the world determine what you see and what you do not see.
When you perceive something, you use your senses and your imagination
Stanford Professor Robert H. McKim already wrote that 1972 in his book Experiences in Visual Thinking. In his terms your imagination comprises more that your creative ability. It entails everything you have ever experienced – and what you learned from it.
Now we would call that your beliefs, or your mental models
They form your perceptual filter – and that filter often gets in the way. Because it generates images that do not always reflect what is in front of you.
An example: What do you see when you look at a naked woman?
On the left you see the woman in McKim’s book. In the middle you see your filter of perception. On the right you see 3 images it can deliver.
At the top you do not perceive anything – you are daydreaming. Maybe you would like to drink a cocktail together, or you are just thirsty. At the bottom your attention is focused on what is in front of you – without adding stuff to it.
Most of the time we are in the middle
We project something on what we see, like when you see an animal in a cloud. But often we are not that creative and we jump to quick associations.
We stereotype all the time
We simplify the amount of input, so we do not drown in it. And that is fine.
Except when you stick to your first image. Then you fix your perspective: You can no longer look past your own interpretation.
How do you keep an open mind?
Therefore you need to pick another filter. You break the pattern that your brain automatically generates and organize the information in a new way.
McKim calls this recentering. You can also call it reframing.
Look at the woman through someone else’s eyes
For instance through the eyes of:
That makes you look in a different way – and see more.
Ok, so now you have a broader view – but how does this offer resolution when you are dealing with a wicked problem?
Let’s see how you can tackle an issue in teamwork
A question I often get in my visual thinking courses is: How do you draw cooperation? The quick answer is simple: Google cooperation + icon. Or look at the noun-project. Plenty of examples that you can easily copy. But with an icon you confine your perspective to a simplified image. And you do not see what cooperation in your team looks like.
If you develop a visual together you get a broader perspective
The easiest way is to develop a mind map of the way you want to work together – that is a conversation worth having.
However, if you want to resolve an issue you need to do more
You have to know what is really going on, and also address the difficulties. Without having people pointing at each other.
How do you draw that?
Imagine your team as a vehicle
Take a sailing boat. Draw a simple boat an a big piece of paper: It does not have to be more than this.
Pass on the marker: Let everyone draw themselves in the boat. Who is on the lookout, who stands at the wheel, who is in the galley? Who navigates?
Maybe someone is still at the jetty
Or someone draws himself in a lifeboat next to the ship. A drawing makes it easier to discuss sensitive issues. You are not talking about each other, but about a picture.
You can also map out the underlying dynamics
Therefore you use arrows and circles in a causal loop diagram. Which patterns are useful and which are frustrating your team’s performance? Here is an extensive article that helps you on the way when you want to take this systemic approach.
Mapping out team dynamics is quite a puzzle, but that is what you need to do if you really want to change something.
Because you can only tackle a problem if you face it
By looking at it with an open mind – and seeing different perspectives.
And no, that does not immediately solve the problem – but now it is down on paper. That releases some of the stress – making it easier to further explore and to play with it.
Are you struggling with problems that are not easy to solve? Try to map them out and look at them from different perspectives.
Here is a free crash course in visual thinking that helps you do that.