The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Getting started

There are these moments when a feeling emerges that something isn’t as it should be. It’s a hunch, and sometimes a pain. It invites the desire to change something.

Naturally, in such a situation, it is rarely clear what needs to be changed.

If the sense is one of pain, the result will often be that the place selected to operate a change is where the pain is located. Acting on the pain has the advantage of releasing some of the felt pressure. And at times, it is necessary. At the same time, dealing with the pain may be dealing with the symptoms and taking time and pressure away from the energy needed to deal with the core issue.

If the pain isn’t too strong, another option will often arise, and that is to grab a tool or system that one will use to change the situation for the better and hopefully for the future. That is, that’s what the hope is about. And yes, there are many situations where using the adequate system is a game changer.  However, there can be a problem with such tools and getting used to them. And that’s when one finds oneself stuck in a place where the system doesn’t provide the enhancement hoped for. On top of the previous situation, there now is a system in place that one seeks to get right. By discussing it with others, one will hear a lot of advice on how to make it work. Experts love to explain why people are not using a system well enough to explain why they are not achieving the results they hope for.

There can be many moving pieces in a system that lead to this felt hunch that something needs to be transformed for the better. It makes it difficult to find where to get started. This is why releasing the pain or installing a tool often are the go-to solutions. They are a response to a problem that has been identified. And yet, both can be useful and at times the pragmatic way forward.

But there is a third option. It comes to mind when one switches from a problem-oriented mindset to a solution-oriented mindset.

It’s an approach that requires describing the desired outcome. Now, that approach has its flaws too. When starting to describe the desired outcome one can get stuck in searching for the best possible goal, investigating one’s priorities, etc. And that’s rarely useful either as one can find oneself getting lost in the details. Imagining different outcomes doesn’t need to find a perfect answer. Combining the imagined outcomes with a set of hypotheses assessing which interventions seem best to influence these outcomes may be just enough. From there, it is possible to start a series of experiments to find the solution of choice.

There is no situation in which it is clear where the best starting point is. However, when a problem-focused mindset is applied to a solution without knowing the outcome it aims at, there is a good chance that it will fail.


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