Use Systems Intelligence to See the Big Picture!
We can all gain lasting competitive advantage by identifying our “blind spots.”
We humans are inherently fallible creatures. Don’t believe me? Then why do so many SMART people do DUMB things. There’s an award for it…the Darwin Awards.
I believe we do this because we possess these potentially debilitating things called “blind spots.” We have a fear of being “blindsided” by the things we don’t see coming straight at us. A blind spot is a skill that we may be lacking, or a problem that we didn’t know existed because we simply cannot be knowledgeable of all things. A blind spot can also be something that we did not even know we didn’t know. That’s what makes them so dangerous.
Being a career coach and business consultant, my job seeker clients and the entrepreneurs, start-ups and business owners that I work with look to me to help them identify and embrace their blind spots for competitive advantage. Here’s how.
Something overlooked or unexpected that appears to have come at us from left field can have potentially disastrous consequences for us. However these unforeseen events can also offer us a unique opportunity to seize the day, if we are trained and prepared to act on the unanticipated event and use that to our advantage.
A powerful strategy that I help my clients apply in order to expand their view of their environments and thus identify as many of their blind spots as possible is called: SYSTEMS INTELLIGENCE (SI) SI is an invaluable tool in our arsenal, a Darwinian ability to be connected to, learn from, and adapt to, the environments we exist within.
The study of SI rose out of the research conducted by two professors (Esa Saarinen & Raimo Hämäläinen) at the Systems Analysis Lab at the Helsinki University of Technology. Turns out, SI is an innate trait all humans possess. It is a capacity that anyone can learn to apply, assuming we do the following:
1. Accept that the world consists of a complex web of interacting and inter-related relationships, to which everyone contributes;
2. Engage in a “holistic” or a high-level, all-encompassing feedback loop within their environment accept the presence of systems by conducting systems thinking;
3. See their environment as feedback intensive, and therefore acts intelligently/rationally; and
4. Interacts with their environment in a way that makes minor corrections in the systems, generating huge effects due to the nonlinear dynamics of the system.
The important thing to understand is, we all exist within a “system” and are shaped by and can exert tremendous influence to our systems (aka environments.) The two MAIN themes we need to understand from SI are: 1) we can produce GREAT positive outcomes; and 2) we should always strive to avoid negative outcomes.
Here are a few strategies to help you expand your systems intelligence:
1. Set Aside Daily “Big Picture” Time: Allocate block out time you afford yourself EVERY DAY to think about your life’s big picture. This involves thinking about the career paths you haven’t taken or ones you may be considering in the future, potential opportunities for new business, or skills you may need to acquire in the future. A nice tool I’ve created for jotting down notes to help my clients is a 2 page FORTY year plan. Ask me about it.
2. Visualization: A technique used by world-class athletes. Go someplace quite where you can rest your body and your mind. Spend 30 minutes with eyes closed, picturing in minute detail all the tasks, steps, required to achieve the specific, tangible, goals you have set for yourself. Do not allow anyone or anything to interfere with this quite solitude you gift yourself.
3. The Power of “WHY” and “What If”: If you’ve read ANY of my prior blogs you know that I am a staunch proponent of the empowering acts of constantly asking “WHY” and it’s equally re-energizing “What If…?”
4. Visionary, Futurist Leadership: Certain people are “blessed” with an inordinately high curiosity level that leads them to spending much more time than the usual human in “day dream” mode. These unique individuals love to ponder life’s uncertainties. But what makes them true visionary leaders is their ability to synthesize massive information (needle in the haystack), see the future clearly, act decisively, all while effectively motivating others to follow them into the fray. They are worth their weight in organizational gold.
Years ago, Joe Luft and Harry Ingram created the famous Johari Window, to show how to improve interpersonal relationships. They defined that which is not known to yourself or others as hidden potential.
Although most respond to my “what do you worry about…” referring to threats, blind spots also mask opportunities. Every so often an innovation comes around that makes you go “duh? Isn’t that obvious?” Think of wheels on suitcases. For years, nobody addressed what is now an expectation worldwide. We must have been blind.
Source: Christopher Meyer
In his book, Multiple Intelligences, Howard Gardner (1983) found that effectively implementing SI requires:
• Linguistic Intelligence;
• Musical Intelligence;
• Logical-Mathematical Intelligence;
• Spatial Intelligence; and
• Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence.
The theory of multiple intelligences is a model of intelligence that differentiates intelligence into specific (primarily sensory) “modalities”, rather than seeing it as dominated by a single general ability.
Gardner argues that there is a wide range of cognitive abilities, and that there are only very weak correlations among them. For example, the theory postulates that a child who learns to multiply easily is not necessarily more intelligent than a child who has more difficulty on this task. The child who takes more time to master multiplication may best learn to multiply through a different approach, may excel in a field outside mathematics, or may be looking at and understanding the multiplication process at a fundamentally deeper level. Such a fundamental understanding can result in slowness and can hide a mathematical intelligence potentially higher than that of a child who quickly memorizes the multiplication table despite possessing a less deep understanding of the process of multiplication.
Intelligence tests and psychometrics have generally found high correlations between different aspects of intelligence, rather than the low correlations which Gardner’s theory predicts, supporting the prevailing theory of general intelligence rather than multiple intelligences (MI). The theory has been widely criticized by mainstream psychology for its lack of empirical evidence, and its dependence on subjective judgement. Certain models of alternative education employ the approaches suggested by the theory.
Here are useful references you can explore that Saarinen & Hamalainen cited in their research:
• Keeney Ralph L. 1992. “Value-Focused Thinking: A Path to Creative Decision-making.” Cambridge, Harvard University Press.
• Long A.A. 2002. “A Stoic and Socratic Guide to Life.” Oxford University Press.
• Oshry, Barry. 1996. “Seeing Systems: Unlocking the Mysteries of Organizational Life.” San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
• Seligman Martin E. P. 2002. “Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment.” New York, Free Press.
• Senge Peter. 1990. “The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization.” New York, Doubleday Currency.
• Senge Peter, Kleiner Art, Roberts Charlotte, Ross Richard B. and Smith Bryan J. 1994. “The Fifth Discipline Field book: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization.” New York, Doubleday Currency.
• Simon Herbert A. 1956. “Models of a Man: Social and Rational.” New York, Wiley.
• Simon Herbert A. 1997. “Models of Bounded Rationality.” Volume 3, Empirically Grounded Economic Reason, Cambridge, The MIT Press.
More cool books to check out if you’re interested in finding YOUR blind spots:
• Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge
• Nassim Taleb’s book, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (2007).
• Claudia Shelton’s book, Blind Spots
• Alexandra Levit’s book, Blind Spots
• Systems Intelligence in Leadership and Everyday Life book
Here’s to your successful 2013. May it be the start of an entirely new path for you!
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Coach
Leverage Systems Intelligence to See Your Blind Spots
Use Systems Intelligence to See the Big Picture!