The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Moving towards abstraction

It often is very useful to describe things and situations in abstract terms. In working with clients, I can find it useful to revert to a more abstract description. I’ll do it when there is a need to understand the dynamics of a situation.

However, concepts can only be a means to develop a sense of the reality a team is confronted with.

A reason why more abstract terms will appear in team conversation is often given when the team hesitates to share concrete details and be open or vulnerable. It is a consequence of their anxiety that directness, concrete descriptions, and appreciation will be confused with judgments. When this is the case, the team has not yet developed the ability to be vulnerable with one another or often experienced themselves as being judged or misinterpreted.

Quite often, their anxiety will be the cause of such consequences. Instead of being direct, open, or vulnerable, they’ll try to soothe expected reactions and focus on these more than on the ideas they really want to share.

Thus, moving into abstraction is also a result of lacking concrete details in a specific situation, lacking the ability to use these concrete details in the sense-making process, or the avoidance of addressing the reality of the situation. It is preferring a conversation on how things should be.

It also is avoiding to collect data on how things are. But, for most, it doesn’t appear as avoiding anything as there is a belief that what is is already known. The assumption is that what they know is also known by others in the same way.





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