Systems thinking and Creative thinking for coaches and consultants

We need all the out-of-the-box thinking we can get

One of the things that happens in an unfamiliar situation, whatever the size, is the default to a certain self-centered focus. This is okay, and even very good sometimes, but it stops being good if it continues for too long. Not just because staying focused on this small scale (self and those closest to self) is less generous than we’re capable of, but because it boxes us into a limited way of seeing. We miss things. In fact you could say that this hyper focus creates blind spots.

If you keep exclaiming over the hangnail on you finger, you’ll lose sight of the fact that your hair is on fire, it’s started to snow, or… fingers have become useless due to some galactic incident.

Stay with me here…

Things I wonder about include how to help us think bigger, while taking any size action effectively. How can I support a client by providing enough immediate gratification for their most pressing questions, and in doing so earn enough trust to invite them to consider the bigger picture, to learn something about the longer view. This (short term-long term balancing act) is one of the most stimulating challenges I experience as a coach, and one I’m always wanting to get better at for so many reasons.

How can we as coaches get better at seeing the big view ourselves? We can’t help clients get there if we don’t see the systems view ourselves, so what’s it going to take to elevate the conversation?

Case in point. There’s a lot of bigger picture happening as a result of the C-19 pandemic, specifically, for example, within the online business community. Sone of those bigger picture things (beyond immediate survival) include:

– how to sort out our emotions so we can remain calm, communicate effectively in our online spaces, rather than spread fear or misinform (this was so lovely to watch happen so rapidly, and so well for the most part)

– looking for ways to serve and lead without being self-serving (which can be hard due to cognitive dissonance, more on this another time) (now this happened, but a lot of it was fairly surface — asking prospects to ”reach out” and ask for what they need… when they’re in survival mode? That’s like asking someone who’s in the thick of making Thanksgiving dinner “how can I help?” — that kind of asking is not very helpful. Really want to help? Figure out how. Now that’d help.)

– making up for what’s been taken away — exponential zoom get togethers and delightful online concerts, dance parties and more (talk about necessity being the parent of invention!)

– considering financial consequences and resetting business expectations — quick decisions being made to postpone events, which in turn causes rethinks around business models, adaptations in marketing

All of this is happening so quickly, I feel sure if we could map the speed of processing we’ve done as a business community, it would look like a graph of starlings in flight.

It’s thrilling really to see us rise to the occasion of bigger thinking. And. We’re so closely connected and responding to so much data under intense conditions — I can’t help but think of this as our big communal brain being rewired.

Tonight as I think about what’s in my heart — I have some wishes. I wish, in addition to all the good (by which I mean the bad AND the good) there was a way to even further elevate the conversation. I feel like we’re capable of it and that’s electric to me. Some initial thoughts here:

– are we noticing how we can do with so much less? Stuff, things, experiences, travel, various and sundry? Could we keep doing more with less after we “stop needing” to? Would you be interested in questions about achieving the smallest carbon footprint possible, for an online business? (Did you know every YouTube video we watch creates heat on a server stored somewhere?)

– is it just me or are you uncomfortable with (among other things) the amount of commerce (livelihood) that’s been taken out of the pockets of small businesses and swept into the arms of Amazon? Happening during a time when we each find relief in still being able to “get” stuff… I find myself in one of those curious “yes and” places. Grateful for the privilege of 1 and 2 day delivery AND unhappy about that much power being held by one company, and that company’s also being perceived as a hero. (Disclosure – I’ve had a shopping cart loaded with 6 books i really want that I can’t seem to press go on as I type… who has wisdom for me on this?)

– and what about the virus and our relationship with it in future. I wish we could see bigger and think bigger in this too. What’s happening in the pursuit of the vaccine? How about the all-nighters being pulled in countless laboratories by people I’ll never get to thank? What prior research is all the current experimentation standing on top of, who do we have to thank for doing their part last year, five years ago, or fifty years ago, as everyone waits for good news?

In what way can my own work today, be even the tiniest bit as important to someone experiencing their C-19 pandemic, fifty years hence?

What else is possible?

When I think about how all these things and more are connected, I’m so humbled, you know, in that gosh-darned way of recognizing my frailty and limitations. Here I am, more tired than I’d like on a Saturday, simply serving coaching clients all week. (I know …that’s a solid contribution – which I’m proud of – and…) WELL…I wish…

I wish…

I wish there was more I could do.


I wonder, you know, about coaching…

I wonder if the families of the scientists and health care workers on the front lines have even just one person they can turn to, to fall apart as needed before they make the tough choices about pacing themselves. Is someone in their inner circle a really great listener?

I wonder which world leaders are receiving strategic advice about collaboration and… which are getting guidance about how to cash in on the big transfer of money about to take place, because certainly there is big money to be made in this scenario.

I wonder who among us feels comfortable about how we handle ethical decisions like who gets what help and when. Even if we aren’t on the front lines, wouldn’t it be a great show of solidarity for us to think about these things… elevate our ability to think and converse at the systems level? In case WE get the chance to be that one great listener sometime?

I often wonder, if when I get called upon in a given situation to be just that, would I be content that I’m ready? Am I doing everything I possibly can so that I like my answer on that day? Does it feel like each one of us will have our moment of getting called upon somehow, soon? Or is it just me.

Here by the way, is a twitter thread I read about in the Exponential View by Azeem Azhar, showing progress towards a possible pregnancy-kit-style test for C-19 doable at home in 30 minutes. There are a couple history-making market surveys in the thread you may be interested in voting on there.

So yes. These are the rather longish musings of a coach who can’t help wonder about the big and little picture perspectives. Systems thinking. Creative thinking. We need them all. Love to hear your ideas, too.


Image Credit: Photo by Danny Grizzle on Unsplash