The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Valuing the leadership unconscious

Making decisions can be hard. That’s even more so when trying to organize the decision-making process based on logic or solely using rational aspects.

That’s because logic can become endless in a complex and complicated situation. It’s easier to find more variables supposedly enhancing the decision-making process than to determine the real problem. It’s even worse when the decision-making process involves a strategic outlook where people seek to anticipate the impact of the decision. And it’s hardly bearable if the impact is the main thing people look out for. That’s when the decision-making process becomes about the other and loses the connection to the entity needing the decision. It is the illusion that there is a perfect solution to the decision.

One of the reasons people reach that state is, that they discard their feelings and biases. They are assuming that they can ban their impact.

The result is that in subsequent situations they’ll find themselves trying to make sense of what is happening by answering “why is this happening?” Fleeing to that sense-making process means that people seek to reach security. In doing so, they use an answer they find most plausible or attractive. It happens when things aren’t working out according to plan or when people don’t understand what is happening.

These are all strategies trying to do without the unconscious.

One of the results of this strategy is to find oneself with more options than one can choose from or have many decisions disappear during the preparation work. It is a consequence of subordinates seeking to please the leader.

While it’s called unconscious, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t accessible at all. Beyond feelings, bias, or for example fantasies, the unconscious can also express itself via associations.

Based on their teaching of the Executive Master of Change, Roger Lehman and Erik van de Loo developed the Night Vison Cycle as a means to use these associations.

It’s a process that is best done with the team affected by the decision-making or investigating the situation. It starts by describing the situation and triggering reflection and inviting associations. While engaging with the problem at hand, the team will collect associations. They share things that come to mind and do so in a non-judgmental manner. It allows taping into a deeper level of understanding. One that is outside of awareness but can lead to new insights and connections. Once enough associations have been collected the work becomes to find the ways connecting them to the problem at hand and to determine patterns that result from these insights. Investigating these may then allow gaining a better understanding of the real problem at hand.

Instead of contributing to finding more options or solutions, what this process does, is establishing a focus on the problem that hadn’t been clearly visible yet. It eases the decision-making by naming what had been until then been hidden behind a bias, in the haze of an existing confusion, or been present as a gut feeling.

The better the understanding of the problem, the easier and more constructive the decision-making.


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