This, then, is the problem with uniform systems of measurement: The more entrenched a system of measurement, the more difficult is for a deviant, and outlier, or even an experimenter to emerge.*
Unless there’s an obvious reason to do otherwise, most of us passively accept decision problems as they are framed and therefore rarely have an opportunity to discover the extent to which our preferences are frame-bound rather than reality-bound.**
There may be another way of seeing things – everyone has a perspective.
Different perspectives bring conflict, however, and we don’t like conflict. Yet conflict is a good thing more often than we realise. The problem is how we work with it. Visual artist Aftab Erfan takes the view that ‘conflict is unavoidable, that it is fundamentally a good thing,’ believing it to be ‘a doorway to wisdom and personal growth.^
Erfan reminds me of Scott Peck’s point in his book The Different Drum, how we have to move through chaos and emptiness towards community. These three stages lie beyond pseudo-community – defined by everyone getting on with each other in a superficial way. We may think that community is where we are trying to return to out of the chaos of disagreement and conflict but Peck’s point is that what we are seeking to return to is, in fact, pseudo-community. Theory U echoes this in a number of ways. Otto Scharmer writes about downloading, in which we don’t shake up our world or anybody else’s (pseudo-community). This is followed by openness to another view, but which one will win (conflict, even chaos). If we move forward, though, instead of returning to downloading, we will enter into dialogue (listening to the other, emptiness). Beyond this, there is the possibility of new imaginings and possibilities that can only emerge from generative dialogue (community or “glory” as Peck described it). – believing generative dialogue lies beyond agreeing about everything for an easy life, or one argument winning over the other, to something new being imagined and created.
One of the important elements for the new-possible is to be different.
Youngme Moon writes about how providing feedback to her students in a particular way – naming five areas of performance – had an unforeseen outcome. Her students now wanted to improve in their weaknesses. This drive to improve weaknesses would only lead to everyone being the same. She admits:
‘Just about everyone in my class was focused on improving their weaknesses. […] No one was playing to their strengths anymore As a result, our class discussions had begun to lose their sparkle.’*
What Moon discovered in her classroom repeats in just about all areas where humans come together. Friedensreich Hundertwasser named five skins we wear, and the fourth – social environment and identity – requires that we define ourselves if we are not to conform to others (the other skins are: epidermis, clothing, home and our planetary skin).
We need to know how we are different to contribute to bringing forth the new:
‘It is, however, through difficulty and opposition that we define ourselves. The mind needs something against which it can profile and discover itself.’^^
Next time we’re in a room and ready to capitulate to the person who’s speaking most confidently and eloquently, let’s remember no one alone is wise to the point of all-knowing, rather, we are wise together. Then let us share our thought, picture, feeling, song or difference.
Alacrity: brisk and cheerful readiness.
(*From Youngme Moon’s Different.)
(**From Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow.)
(^Aftab Erfan, from Drawn Together Through Visual Practice.)
(^^From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)