Understanding the complexity of our organizations, what they want to achieve, and how to go about achieving what they want isn’t hard because people don’t have the tools; it is hard because people haven’t been shown how to use them. What I refer to as “the Four Truths of Clarity” show that we do have the tools, and that to use them we simply need to overcome the barriers to using them.
- Not understanding the system clearly, as it really is, both in what it wants to achieve and in how it works, leads to very ineffective and inefficient systems. We experience this state of confusion when we lack clarity: on a personal level whenever we make an obvious mistake and say to ourselves, “I knew better than that”; on a group level whenever someone states after a group blunder, “I could have told you that, if you would have asked”; and on an organizational level whenever we see intelligent, passionate people with years of experience make seemingly stupid decisions.
- Not understanding the system clearly is caused by barriers to what we experience and by our ability to experience the system. The first barrier is that we are not able to process the infinite number of details available to us at all moments. And, with the inputs we are able to process, we don’t. The second barrier exists because we are usually mindless in a distracted state, paying attention to our own thoughts and not to the system.
- By understanding what influences these barriers to systems experiencing, we can overcome these barriers. The first barrier of cognitive ability can be overcome somewhat by recognizing its existence. Knowing that we are not capable of knowing everything puts us in the position of asking rather than assuming. The second barrier of mindful attention can be overcome by increasing our ability to be mindful to what we can process about the system.
- Since we experience systems through our body, heart, and head, overcoming the barriers requires that we build our capacity to experience systems through our body, heart, and head with greater clarity. Very simple exercises have been found to be useful and motivating in being mindful to information we receive from our body, heart, and head. It has also been shown that it is quite possible to develop one’s ability to act in a mindful, clear way continuously.
I previously published this observation, with a hat tip to the Buddha, as Ritchie-Dunham, James. 2005. The Four Truths of Clarity, Reflections; The SoL Journal of Knowledge, Learning and Change, 6(6/7), vi-vii.