What You See Is What You Get

When you were a kid, did you use a paper towel roll as a monocular or pretend it was a telescope?

If you did, then you understand what I mean by saying, “the whole world shrunk to a two-inch circle.” By simply placing the magical roll over one eye we brought some things into focus while removing others. When we pulled the tube away, the things that were previously blocked comes back into view. We see more but our focus adjusted and details changed.

Our perception of what is happening in business (and in life for that matter) is like this childhood experience. Perspective changes everything. And not in a trite, superficial way-in a practical and pragmatic way where we see the evidence and outcomes of our perception-we see how it forms of our thinking, actions, and behaviors. From this vantage point, we see the relationship between how we think, act, and feel to the outcomes produced.

When we begin to see the connectivity between our perception, mindset, and their effect, we begin to understand that perception is the difference between seeing an opportunity and missing one. But if we cannot see something, and if we are blocked in our perception, then how do we actually capitalize on something of which we are unaware? And here is the rub: just like the story about the paper towel roll, we only see what we are able to see—there are limits and bounds to our viewpoint. With that in mind, how do we get beyond our own mental model, perception, and mindset?

We humble ourselves to our own ignorance and biases. Until we challenge and reframe our assumptions about ourselves, we remain trapped. Escape or expanding beyond our own mental trappings requires a bit of surrender to the unknown (i.e. surrendering to how limited our awareness truly is). From this point, we can begin the journey of adjusting the bounds of our perception.

Pushing the boundaries of our perception means acknowledging that we are all susceptible to anchoring ourselves, and often our teams, into a way of seeing and being that creates specific outcomes. Some constraints cultivate possibilities while others create limits. Both can be useful or harmful depending on the situation and level of understanding we have about constraints and conditions. To understand constraints and conditions, consider the interpersonal dynamics shaping and informing conditions and constraints. Ask yourself, “Why, why, why,” until you cannot ask anymore. If you want to understand an outcome, understand causation and correlation.

For example, our role, and each team member’s role, form a collective conscious, which then drives behavior and, ultimately, performance. This is not mystical magic. It is the science behind shared cognition, making sense, and problem-solving. Simply put, the collective consciousness is the shared thought pattern that drives actions, interpretations, and behaviors, which inform and shape constraints, conditions, and possibilities. In combination, these things produce outcomes—the reality we live in day to day in our jobs, roles, teams, and firms.

If you made it this far, you might be thinking, “well of course perception shapes things.” But if you have not had an “aha moment” about how your perception has helped or hindered you and your team, it might be time to acknowledge you have dropped anchor and your monocular is pressed up to one eye.

Ask yourself these questions: How often do you challenge your own perception? How often do you help your coworker or teammates see biases or invite them to see yours? How vulnerable are you about your perceptions or the ones you see in others?

There are many tools, techniques, and methods to cultivate such an experience. This is not an article about that. However, it could be a follow-up. This is an article on frames of perception. This is an article about how we sometimes forget that we take our mindset and biases for granted because it is the mindset we live with each day—it is normal.