Some time ago I found myself in a workshop listening to and observing that which was occurring. As time flowed onwards and my existence kept ebbing away, i found myself sad, deflated. Here were a group of intelligent people who were charged with charting the future of their organisation. And that future included the label of ‘a customer-centric organisation’. There was much talk about customer obsession, trust, customer experience innovation etc.
So how is that I found myself sad and deflated? I found myself present to that which did not appear to show up for the rest of the team. What was I present to? The following says it as well as it can be said:
We construct realities and then forget we were the ones that constructed them. When our relationship with reality has a kind of “is-ness”or “fixed-ness” to it, – it limits what’s possible and allows only for options like explaining, trying to fix, resisting or accepting. The answer to the question, what does it mean to be human, gets looked at only through that lens. The movie The Matrix says it well: “Welcome to the desert of the real.”
– Gale LeGassick, Landmark Education
Time and again, I find myself in meetings and workshops where the talk is lofty yet where the course of action is merely reasonable. What magnitude of possibility lies in a reasonable course of action? Reasonable possibility. What kind of possibility is that? More of the same and results which are merely reasonable. What is another word for reasonable? Average.
The access to new realms of possibility and the generating of extraordinary results lies in the unreasonable. Unreasonable given the taken for granted “is-ness” yet not at all unreasonable when one lets go of the cage of “is-ness”. It occurs to me that if there was a master of ‘reality distortion’ it was Steve Jobs. Which may explain why it was that he was the source of new worlds of possibility and extraordinary accomplishment.
It occurs to me that the deeper reason that so few organisations innovate – in any dimension – is that the folks who are doing the innovating are reasonable folks taking reasonable courses of action. What is more reasonable than going for the ‘low hanging fruit’? Or sticking to the proven methods? Or involving only the people that have proven themselves to be good team players and safe pair of hands?
Innovation is not simply a matter of process / methodology. Nor is it a matter of tools and techniques. At its heart innovation, and that is just another word for transformation, is a matter of being: the being of the folks in the organisation, and the being of the organisation as a whole. Only those whose being is ‘unreasonable’ have access to generating innovation and transforming business.
Put simply: plodders do not cause innovation or transformation, they simply plod along no matter what tools and techniques you put in their hands.
The accessing to innovation / transformation? Leaders: those who are ‘unreasonable’ enough in their being to put their very being at stake to bring forth, into the world, the ‘unreasonable’: new worlds of possibility.
This post got published before I intended to publish it. Sorry for this oversight. I have now completed it as intended and am republishing it. I apologise for any inconvenience and thank you for your understanding.
What do B2B technology vendors sell?
No, it is not the technology. Think again, what do B2B technology vendors sell? They sell dreams that speak to a fundamental human need. What dreams? Dreams of control-mastery-domination over the ever flowing, every morphing, character of a process we turn into a noun: life.
What need do these dreams take root from and speak to? The need for safety and security. At some fundamental level we get that nature is indifferent to our survival and wellbeing. To deal with this anxiety we embrace anything that provides the illusion of safety-security. The Greeks embraced the Gods, we embrace technology and the latest technofix.
I notice that the big data and analytics space is hot right now. It is the latest technofix being pushed by the B2B technology vendors. It occurs to me that this technofix is designed to speak to those running large enterprises – especially those who are higher up and divorced from the lived experience of daily operational life at the coal face.
What I find astonishing is that so few actually ask the following two questions:
1. “What kind of a being is a human being?”
2. “What kind of a culture is human culture?”
What is the defining characteristic of human beings?
Allow me to illustrate by share a story I read many years ago:
Psychologist: John, you have been referred to me by the authorities. They tell me that you think that are dead. Is that right? Are you dead?
John: Absolutely, I died a little while back. I am dead.
Psychologist: How interesting! You died a little back. Yet here you are talking with me. And I am not dead. So how is it that you are dead and I am not dead, yet here we are talking?
John: Beats me how this works or why it is happening. I know that I am dead.
Psychologist: John, I have an idea. Do dead people bleed?
John: Don’t be ridiculous! Everyone knows that dead people don’t bleed!
The psychologist suddenly reaches over and cuts John’s hand with a knife. Both of them are looking at John’s hand. Blood, dark red blood, is seeping through the cut. The psychologist looks at John with the look of satisfaction, of victory. Let’s rejoin the conversation.
Psychologist: John, do you see that blood on your hand? How do you make sense of it? You say that you are dead. And earlier you told me that dead people don’t bleed.
John: F**k me, dead people do bleed!
This is not simply an amusing story. It is a story that captures the experience of a respected psychologist who has been dealing with many kinds of people, dealing with many kinds of problems, over a lifetime. This story capture a fundamental truth of the human condition.
It appears that to survive in the world as it is and as we have made it, we need to be deluded. We need to distort reality: to make life more predictable, to make our current situation lighter-better than it is, to see a future brighter than is merited by the facts, to see ourselves stronger, more capable, more influential than we are. Studies suggest that those of us who lack this ability to distort reality and delude ourselves end up depressing ourselves.
What Kind Of A Culture Is Human Culture?
Symbolic and ideological. Why? Because human beings just don’t cope well with the world as it is. So we get together into tribes. And the glue that keeps the tribe together is a particular way of constructing the world, a particular way of giving meaning to the world, and a particular way of interacting with the world. And when I speak world I include human being, and human beings; a human being is always a being-in-the-world as in always and forever an intrinsic thread in that which we call world.
The next question: which ideology do members of society espouse? The dominant public ideology. In the world of business this is that of scientific management and in particular reasoning and making decisions objectively – irrespective of the past, of tradition, of our personal interests and opinions.
A more interesting question is that about the actual behaviour of the elites, the Tops. What is it that the Tops actually do? They do that which protects and furthers their interests: their power, their status, their privileges, their wealth, their dominance. So insight and recommendations (whether from big data and analytics or through conventional methods) that are in line with these interests are heartily accepted and actioned swiftly and vigorously.
Any insights and recommendations that challenge the vested interests of the elite (Tops) are repressed at the individual level, belittled-disputed-ignored at the societal level. I invite you to read this article which can be summed up as the UK Government sacks the chair of the official Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. Why? Because the chair was insisting on the reclassification of drugs. What happened?
The Advisory Council looked at the data (of harm to the individual taking the drugs and others affected by his/her behaviour) on drugs at the request of the UK.
On the basis of the data, the Advisory Council came up with the conclusion that “if drugs were classified on the basis of the harm they do, alcohol would be class A, alongside heroin and crack cocaine.”
The drug rankings, associated findings and recommendations were ignored by the UK government. Why? Because they went against the government’s stance on drugs.
The chair of the Advisory Council challenged the UK government’s refusal to act on the recommendations of the Advisory Council. So the appropriate UK Government minister sacked him.
What Does The Future Hold for Big Data & Analytics?
If past behaviour is an adequate guide to the future then it is safe to say that technology vendors will get rich. And the business folks will have another layer of technology that they have to manage. One or two organisations may reap substantial benefits, the rest will be disappointed. Yet, this disappointment will not last long. Why? By that time the technology folks will have come up with the latest technofix!
I leave you with the following thoughts:
1. There are no technofixes to the kinds of social issues-problems we continue to face;
2. Incremental improvements lie in the domain of big data and analytics;
3. Breakthroughs lie in our ability to see that which is with new eyes – a shift in dominant concepts, dominant paradigm, dominant ideology, dominant way of seeing that which is.
Put differently, big data & analytics is a red herring for those who aspire to lead: to cause-create that which does not exist today. Managers, those whose horizon extends to daily operations and the next twelve months, may find big data and analytics useful – as long as it does not threaten the sacred cows of the Tops-Middles and the corporate culture.
I am following the lead taken by Dawna MacLean in her recent post on encouraging businesses to become more human. It occurs to me she is a brave lady worthy of admiration and respect. I dedicate this post to her, in service of the stand she is taking and the possibility that she is living from and into.
There are many actions that I regret. Few bring me shame. One in particular is etched within me despite it occurring ‘a lifetime ago’. I reckon I was 14 at the time, walking, alone, on my way into the town centre. I am stopped by an old lady, she has a walking stick, she tells me she is lost, she asks for directions. I draw closer to hear-understand what she is saying. She smells! I tell her that she need to turn around. I tell her she is only ten minutes walk from her destination. And I spell out the directions – twice.
A voice speaks to me along the following lines: “Take her hand, walk her there, it is even on your way somewhat. Without your help she will struggle.” Another voice speaks: “She smells awful! You are in a hurry and it will take ages to take her there. You have given her what she asked for. She’ll be fine.” I listen to the second voice, leave her to make her own way, and I walk into town. I cleaned up a lot of history whilst participating in Landmark Education. And that is one that I never got to clean up. If that old lady were here today, I’d ask for her forgiveness.
Why am I sharing this with you? So that you have the context from which to make sense of what I speak-write. I write is not to help you make it: sell more, be more successful, obtain higher status, live happily ever after. I write to open eyes, unblock ears, touch hearts. I write to encourage-facilitate a shift of worldview.I write from the possibility of meaningful-fulfilling human lives and the possibility of a ‘world that works for all, none excluded’. Arguably a world that works must include meaningful-fulfilling human lives. And such a world has plenty of space for businesses that do great by doing good: enriching human lives, and life as a whole.
What Is The Experience That Goes With Transformation?
The last post ended with “So the challenge of Customer Experience is the challenge of a transformation in worldview.” When I speak transformation, what am I pointing at? Look at the following picture, keeping look at it until a shift occurs in what you see.
What occurred? If you are like me then you probably started out seeing a small cube sitting inside of a an ‘open box’ and then came a moment when you saw a big cube from which a small cube (left hand corner) was cut-out, missing.
Please notice, the reality (that which is) has not changed. It is the same picture – nothing about the picture itself changed. Yet, that which you perceived-saw changed and you had something like a surprise: an ‘aha’ experience. Why? Because the perceptual switch that occurred was not simple a change-adjustment-variation of what you saw originally. What you saw was distinct from what you had seen earlier. Put differently, a transformation occurred in your seeing.
What can we learn from this? Given the same ‘that which is so’ you made sense of it in two distinct ways. And, this is important, each way of seeing ‘that which is’ occurred as natural, correct and absolute whilst is was occurring the way it was occurring for you. Only by looking at the picture for a sufficient period of time, in a specific manner, did the gestalt like shift in your seeing occur. And when it did occur, it occurred in an instant. Transformation is like that.
Now think of business and organisational life and apply that which you have experienced here. And learned. Ask yourself this question: is the way that the business world is ‘pictured and talked about’ the only way of picturing and talking about it? Is it possible that there are many ways of picturing, talking about, and showing up in the business world? I say that there are numerous ways of seeing-interpreting the business world – that the number of ways is only limited by our imagination AND the influence-strength of the dominant paradigm of seeing.
Customer Experience: Two Radically Distinct Paradigms
Let’s take a brief look at each in turn.
CX Model 1: The Dominant Way of Seeing-Using Customer Experience
It occurs to me that a lot has been written about Customer Experience. For me most of it shows up as shallow, or simply putting ‘lipstick on the pig’. What am I pointing at when I speak that which I have spoken. Take a look at the following picture:
In this way of seeing, Customer Experience is viewed-treated simply as a means of:
Reducing or containing costs e.g. through using lower cost channels to ‘serve’ customers; and
Risk management given that every customer has access to a smartphone and social media and thus is in a position to damage brand-corporate reputation.
The goal of business within this dominant paradigm is that which it has been since the ascendency of shareholder value and ‘greed is good’ ethos. This goal is characterised by a focus on self (oneself and one’s tribe), and greed: to extract as much value as possible in the short-term. Any value created for the customer is the minimum that it is necessary to create in order to extract as much value for ‘Self”.
Within the dominant paradigm, CRM (including social CRM) is simply a technology that is used to augment-strengthen the existing business logic: getting as much money out of the customer as possible whilst giving away the minimum; and getting as much value (productivity) out of employees whilst giving back the minimum.
Finally, in this model (as practiced) the deep business logic stays the same. Competition rather than collaboration. Self at the expense of others. Efficiency rather than effectiveness…… Importantly, people are neither trusted nor treated with respect and accorded the dignity that goes with being a full human being; threat, fear, and game playing are pervasive.
CX Model 2: A World Waiting To Be Invented, And Mastered By Few
I call the second model ‘A World Waiting To Be Invented’ because it is only practiced-mastered by a few. The rare few that come to my mind include: John Lewis/Waitrose, USAA, and Amazon/Zappos. What constitutes this second model? Here is a picture:
In this model Customer Experience is a subset of Experience. Experience encompasses the experiences of all the participants-actors-stakeholders: customers, ‘partner’s (the people who actually work in the organisation and create value for customers), value chain partners (suppliers, channel partners, outsourced partners…), and the community.
The ‘Goal’ of the business within this paradigm (way of seeing the world of business) is one of creating value for and sharing this value with the whole system (all the participants, all the stakeholders).Such a business is focussed on making a contribution and serving: enriching the lives of all participants. And usually takes a stand and operates from-into a specific possibility. Take a good look at the John Lewis constitution and you will see the stand and the possibility spelled out. Read Jeff Bezos’ annual letters or Tony Hsieh’s book, Delivering Happiness, and the possibility-stand is clearly articulated.
In the model, the business logic of the organisation is designed-operated from the context of creating-generating the kind of ‘Experience’ that is mandated the ‘Goal’. Put differently, the ‘Business Logic’ now serves as the means of delivering the Experience. Not the other way around. Put differently, ‘Experience’ precedes’ Business Logic’.
From where does the design of ‘Experience’ flow? From the ‘Goal’. Remember the goal is to cater for the needs-welfare of the whole. Which is why ‘Experience’ encompasses all the actors, all the stakeholders.
In this way of looking at the world of business, and according to me, Customer Experience takes it’s rightful place. Rather than dominating the discussion, Customer Experience is seen for what it is, just one component whose meaning-impact comes from how it fits into the other components of Experience. And how it gives life to the ‘Goal’.
What becomes of CRM in this model? CRM systems are simply tools to give life to the ‘Experience’ that the organisation is committed to creating-generating. As such CRM systems must take into account the needs of Customers and ‘Partners’ (people who will use the systems) and deliver the kind of experience(s) that these folks are looking for.
Enough for today. I may elaborate on these models in the future. If you find yourself moved to share your thoughts then I invite you to do so.
Is the default condition of showing-up and operating in the business world that of experience blindness? Is the reason that so little progress has been made by so many on customer experience due to this experience blindness? Is experience blindness the cause behind so many workplaces having the same feel as hospitals?
Let’s make this personal. Did you drink coffee? No, did you drink tea? No, did you drink water or some juice? Yes. Ok. Now go back to the last occasion that you drunk something and ask yourself what your experience was. What was the sensation of drinking? What was the texture of the container that touched your lips? What about the liquid itself? How did the liquid travel from the container and through you? What thoughts were present as you were drinking? What kind of mood were you in: relaxed, sad, anxious…? If you are like most people that I see-encounter, you drink in an experience blind manner. Why? We have not been taught to be mindful and present to the experience that is occurring right now. Given our blindness to our own-lived experience, how present-receptive can we be to the experience of others: customers, employees….?
Allow me to illustrate, bring life to, this conversation with two examples.
Example 1: Conversation With A Customer Experience Consultant
I found myself working with someone whom I like-respect, someone who has operated as a customer experience consultant. On a joint engagement we were planning a workshop session. The challenge was to devise a way to help the people who would be in the room choose between the various alternatives.
As we were talking, this able consultant was going through the various methods that were available for use. He talked about which methods tend to work. And he talked about the method that his latest employer recommends using. What he did not talk about was the ‘customers’ – the people who would actually take part in the workshop.
Then I was asked for my opinion. My response was immediate and it went along the following lines. We are designing this workshop for the benefit of the people who will attend the workshop and make the decision. Why don’t we ask these people which framework-method-process they tend to use, in their organisation, to make this kind of decision? And if they don’t have one method then lets run them through the most promising methods and see which one speaks to them.
What really surprised me was this: what showed up for me as the obvious way to look at and deal with the situation at hand (bring the voice of the customer into the discussion-decision) had clearly not occurred to my colleague. And this is no ordinary business person. He is customer savvy: he has been doing customer for a long time.
The only way that I can explain this to myself is that doing customer experience is not the same as being customer experience. Doing is like going to a party and putting on the proper mask and playing the proper role. Then it is time to leave the party and put on another mask and play a different role. Whereas, being is that which is embodied in the way that you show up – being lives in every fibre of your organism. It is what you are, naturally.
Example 2: Phone Call From The Director of The Building Company
Over a month ago, I arranged with the Steve, the director of a building company for work to be done on the house in which I live. We agreed the start date: Thursday 10th April (today). As I need to be around the house, I took the day off as a holiday.
Yesterday, around 18:30 I got a call from Steve. Why was Steve ringing? Steve was ringing to ask if I had emptied the room out. I told him that I hadn’t as I had just finished work for the day. And I had set aside the evening to do the clearing out. He asked me if I had taken the shelves off. I told him that his firm was responsible for doing that under the agreed schedule of work.
Then Steve got to the point. He told me that the guy that was supposed to come to the house, around 8 am, would not be coming. Why? Because he is still finishing the work he is doing for another customer. The Steve told me that he would have someone else come over to the house, after lunch, to remove the radiator and the shelves. This was just the preparatory work to enable the room to be plastered and then painted. What became clear is that the room would not get plastered even though that is what we had agreed. And what I had expected to occur. I did not need to take a day off for someone to come and do two jobs that collectively took 45 minutes.
Have you noticed what I noticed? I noticed that the conversation was all about Steve and his needs, his concerns, his priorities, his situation. Not once did Steve ask about me, ask about my concerns, or even ask how I felt about Steve not keeping his word.
Is Steve a bad person or a rotten business man? I don’t know the answer to that. All I can share with you is that Steve does not show up for me that way. How does he show up for me? Steve shows up for me as a great example of business as usual. What do I mean about that:
Showing up and operating from an ‘inside out’ view of the world and not evening being present to any other way of operating e.g. ‘outside-in’; and
Concerned only with the job/tasks to be done and being blind to the human being he is dealing with and thus blind to the concerns, needs, expectations, and experiences of these human beings.
It occurs to me that this is simply what goes along with living into-from a worldview that sees and thus uses human beings as resources – to be used for one’s purposes, efficiently and effectively, for largest profit/benefit for oneself. So the challenge of Customer Experience is the challenge of a transformation in worldview.
I’d like to start this conversation by getting us mindful to a definition:
lack of knowledge or information.
“he acted in ignorance of basic procedures”
I say that our ignorance is vast. And we are not present to our ignorance because we are convinced that we have an accurate grasp of the world: we know it all! Our hubris blinds us that which history makes vividly clear: each age is deluded in its conviction that it has accessed the truth of what is so. Does this remind you of Socrates? The Oracle claimed that Socrates was the wisest man because he knew that he knew nothing. On that basis we are not wise – nowhere near close to wise.
Do You Remember This Starbucks/’Milk’ Story?
Why have I launched into this conversation? If you read this blog then you may remember this post and this narrative:
Last week, while on an average holiday shopping trip, my mother and I decided to stop by Starbucks to get a quick snack…..
When we got up to the counter, my mother placed our simple order, at which point she asked for a “tall” cup of two percent white milk. This is how the conversation played out:
“Mocha,” said the barista.
“No. Milk,” my mother repeated.
“No. Two percent white milk.”
….. I attempted to withhold my personal thoughts. Milk. You know, that white stuff you pour in the coffee? Yes, well, we want an entire cup full of that. Minus the coffee, of course.
Our barista proceeded to ask if we’d like the milk steamed, but we opted for cold. (They steamed it anyway.) Eventually, we managed to get our order straightened out, but not without a few stifled giggles.
Making Sense Of This Story Through The Insights of Heidegger & Wittgenstein
You may also remember the follow up post where I made use of the insights of Heidegger & Wittgenstein. And in so doing attempted to point out that:
every human being is always a being-in-the-world – which is to say that the human being and the world are so interwoven that they are one not two;
every human being finds himself, at every moment, situated-embedded in a particular world e.g. the business world, the academic world, the public world, the world of home etc and that world ‘takes over’ the human beings working-living in that world;
a word such as ‘milk’ does not point at a specific object rather it, and every word-utterance, is a social tool for coordinating social action in a specific world – think for a moment what ‘milk’ means to a woman that has just given birth and compare that to what ‘milk’ means to a supermarket;
that the confusion that occurred at Starbucks and with the barista was due to the narrator’s mother turning up in the Starbucks world of coffee and using the word ‘milk’ inappropriately – akin to you turning up at your friend’s home for a meal, enjoying the meal and then asking for the bill; and
to really understand a world (e.g. the advertising world) one needs to live in that world by taking up a role in that world and doing that which goes with the role taken up.
After reading this follow up post, Adrian Swinscoe commented (bolding is my work):
I really like your exploration of this issue from a philosophical angle and learnt a lot from it….
However, at the end of the post I found myself wondering if the heart of the problem was something quite humdrum and that the barista just didn’t listen. She obviously heard something but didn’t properly listen for whatever reason….fatigue, lack of care, language, bias, agenda etc etc.
As you point out, if we don’t get out of our way and our own ‘heads’ then we’ll struggle to understand and really helpand serve others.
Now I want to address the points that Adrian is making. And that means grappling with the problem of knowledge and the curse of expertise. Let’s start with Adrian’s statement “if we don’t get out of our own way and our own ‘heads’ then we’ll struggle to understand and really help and serve others.”
Is It Possible To Get Out Of Our ‘Heads’?
If I was to get out of my own ‘head’ then whose ‘head’ would I use to be able to make sense of the world in which I find myself? Besides we are almost never in our heads, we are mostly on automatic pilot immersed in cultural practices and taken over by our habits. If this was not the case then thinking, genuine thinking, would not be so effortful for us. Let’s listen to Charles Guignon:
If all our practices take place within a horizon of vague and inexplicit everyday understanding , then even the possibility of something obtruding as intelligible is determined in advance by this understanding …….. the questions that I can ask and the kind of answers that would make sense are always guided by my attuned understanding of “ordinary” interpretations …. Without this understanding, nothing could strike me as familiar or strange.
For this reason Heidegger says that all explanation presupposes understanding…… The legitimate task of seeking explanations is always conducting within a horizon of understanding that guides our questioning and establishes procedures for attaining clarity and elucidation. Through our mastery of the shared language of the Anyone, we have developed specific habits and expectations that enable us to see things as obvious or puzzling...
A detective trying to make sense of how a crime was committed …. might take even the most mundane item in the room and ask how it came to be there ….. great advances have come about in the sciences through the ability of individuals to step back and question what had been taken as obvious and self-evident. But such cases of departing from established habits and expectations make sense only against a background of shared understanding which remains constant through such shifts. In other words, we can make sense of unintelligibility and a demand for explanation only within a horizon of intelligibility which is not itself thrown into question …..
– Charles B. Guignon, Heidegger and the Problem of Knowledge
To sum up we are always in our ‘head’ and that head arises and is kept in existence through our shared cultural practices. A particular potent cultural practices is language. Notice that to operate in society we must speak the language of that society – everyday language. And to operate in particular world (e.g. world of business, world of finance, world of advertising, world of healthcare ….) we must be fluent in the language of that world.
Adjustments can be made to our ‘head’ and it is not easy to make these adjustments. Why? Adjustments are not made through thinking – not made through cognitive means. As ‘head’ is given by roles, habits and cultural practices it is necessary to make a shift in these. How? By moving into and inhabiting-living new worlds. This is what occurs when the CEO leaves the world of the CEO and takes on-lives the role of the frontline employee for five days; Undercover Boss is all about this shift. If you find yourself interested in that which I am speaking about here then I recommend watching the movie The Doctor (starring William Hurt) – it is instructive in a way that my words cannot instruct.
The Curse Of Expertise
How does Adrian interpret the Starbucks/’Milk’ story? The same way that many of us interpret it:
“She obviously heard something but didn’t properly listen for whatever reason….fatigue, lack of care, language, bias, agenda etc etc.
Why this conviction that ‘that which occurred’ is the fault of the barista? Why this insistence on the incompetence of the barista? I say that this explanation is so easily forthcoming and attracting (rather like a magnet) because it is the cultural practice to see fault in front line staff, especially as these jobs are low paid, and thus lay blame on them.
What if the barista was not fatigued, not tired, speaks the language well, has no agenda? What if, on the contrary, the barista is highly skilled in her role of serving coffee to Starbucks customers? Is it possible expertise, not ignorance, is the cause of the snafus? Let’s listen to a zen master and see what we can learn:
In Japan we have the phrase “shoshin” which means “beginner’s mind”. The goal of practice is to always keep our beginner’s mind. Suppose your recite the Prajna Paramitra Sutra only once. It might be a very good recitation. But what would happen to you if you recited it twice, three times, four times or more? You might easily lose your original attitude towards it….
If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.”
– Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
The curse of expertise is that the expert only sees that which s/he has been conditioned to see; hears that which s/he has been conditioned to listen to; makes sense of that which shows up through her already given horizon of understanding (see Guignon above). Put differently, the expert is stuck in a rut: all that shows up, including the anomaly, is interpreted in times of the taken for granted. Which is why altruistic acts are made sense of in terms of selfishness given the Darwinian frame. Or the necessity to postulate ‘dark matter’ given the need to keep the existing model of the universe intact. Or the collapsing of Customer Experience with Customer Service in the business world. Or the insistence of seeing CRM as technology and business process change rather than a fundamental change in the ‘way we do things around here’.
As a consultant/coach/facilitator what do I bring to the table? At my best I bring to the table a beginner’s mind where everyone on the ‘inside’ is an expert. Which is why I am often able to see that which my clients cannot see. The challenge always is to convey that which I have seen to my clients such that they do not reinterpret it into their existing way of seeing-doing things. Often I fail: despite my best efforts to ‘ask for milk’ I find that my clients interpret as ‘mocha’. And when I say “No, milk!”, they respond “Surely, you are asking for Mocha!”. And even if I strike up the courage to insist that ‘milk’ is not the same as ‘Mocha’ I find that they often confuse ‘Two percent white milk” with ‘steamed milk’. They are not at fault, it is the curse of expertise. And it inflicts us all!
And Finally A Quote
I leave you with a quote that sums up the situation and the challenge beautifully:
Create your future from your future not your past.