Sensory Thinking for Leadership


The phrase and the title “Sensory Thinking for Leadership”  came to my mind when I was watching two great videos on TED (www.ted.com). Change Management initiatives by leaders have always met mixed fate. The success stories of long term sustained benefits from CHANGE are very few. These two videos gave me a thought on possible factors that can increase the probability of success.

First Video was  a lecture by Temple Grandin. She was diagnosed with autism as a child. She speaks about how her mind works — sharing her ability to “think in pictures,” which helps her solve problems that neurotypical brains might miss. She makes the case that the world needs people on the autism spectrum: visual thinkers, pattern thinkers, verbal thinkers, and all kinds of smart geeky kids. The title of video is The world needs all kinds of minds

It was amazing to realize the power of visual thinking. The communication through the visual thinking is also powerful as it would be devoid of any ambiguity. Visual thinking can often reduce the number of words required to explain. Language in any form requires other side to decipher and absorb. Pictures communicate by themselves. I visualize that some of the challenges in CHANGE MANAGEMENT can be addressed if one uses pictures to think and communicate. These challenges emerge from some of the reality of organisations ecosystem

  1. Organisations are becoming MULTILINGUAL
  2. Associated workforce come from VARIED PEDIGREES.
  3. Most people have shorter span of attention to details
  4. Ever changing workforce profile

I am reminded of a crazy definition of BOOK from a Tamil Movie “Nanban” (This was a remake of 3 Idiots in Hindi). The definition was

“Instruments that record, analyze, summarize, organize, debate, and explain information that are illustrated, non illustrated; hardback, paperback, jacketed, non jacketed, with forward introduction, table of contents, index, that are intended for the enlightenment, understanding, encouragement, entrancement and the education of the human brains to the sensitive root of vision, sometimes touch”

A simple picture of book might have more effective.

The problem solving processes always become more effective when the “problem free scenario” is visualized. In my view it is important that leaders at all levels visualize what they want to achieve or communicate. Great scientists like Newton, Einstein, Tesla had phenomenal Visual Thinking ability. Great warriors like Alexander had always visualized himself as a world leader.

The another video was about power of listening to the sounds. This video was by Bernie Krause , who has been recording wild soundscapes — the wind in the trees, the chirping of birds, the subtle sounds of insect larvae — for 45 years. The title of this video is The voice of the natural world

This video is about impact on nature by acts that are considered to be “environmentally safe” or “environmentally sustainable”. A case mentioned in the video refers to timber cutting activity of a forest in a method that were considered to be environmentally sustainable. This is assumed to have a net zero impact on environment. But it is amazing to see the change in profile of the ecosystem of living organisms. The pictures before and after do not look different. The count of trees are not different. This assessment is based on studying the profile of the voices of nature within the ecosystem.

We have often seen leaders failing because they have either not listened or not paid attention to the “changes in voices”. Often changes are initiated by the leaders to show case results in short run. However the changes in Voices of Stakeholders is ignored. CHANGE is often considered good if the results relating to financial and market dimensions are good. The Voice of Customers (VOC) / Voice of Employees (VOE) may undergo change but it does not get noticed unless it takes form of visual impact like attrition (both customer and employees). The changes may be so subtle that it may not be audible unless specific attention is given.

A case in hand as experienced during my consulting services. Leadership team of an organisation decided to institutionalize the Performance Measurement based on the Results that have positive impact on business.  This is one change that is probably easiest one to justify and expedite. The change was bought in. It was believed that this has brought in the desired change in performance of the people (read behavior).  A deeper interaction with the members of the organisation threw up some interesting dimension. If I can relate them based on my views on the videos above:

  1. The CHANGE was nether visualized by the employees nor the leaders shared the VISUALIZED PICTURE with employees. Possibly a series of sessions based on concepts were considered enough.
  2. There was no effort to either to LISTEN the Sounds (rather noises in form of murmurs) or the changes were ignored (rather considered as  normal behavior).

It is not difficult to imagine the likely outcome if the CHANGE and the CHANGE SCENARIO is VISUALIZED by the leaders and then communicated. Leaders can take significant corrective measures if they LISTEN to the changes in the sounds of nature (ecosystem of organizations).

 

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