Notes are the ephemera of our lives. Theoretically short-term and transitory, they have become on-going collections of thoughts, scrawls, screeds and snippets of information. By attempting to manage my notes and maintain my records, I’ve gotten good at two dimensions: keeping track of the minutiae of my day, and hoarding the articles, papers and books that I find interesting and meaningful. Where I struggle is in bridging the gap. Notes are about more than just day-to-day musings and lists. References aren’t just there to look pretty on a shelf (really, they’re not). Finding a way to make and sustain meaningful connections between them is an essential challenge.
I’ve made the argument that the boxes and lines of models don’t matter as much as the content that occupies those boxes. I’ll go one step further. What really matters is the messiness that underlies that content. Models attempt to simplify and create meaning. The content within the model is just the aggregate representation of the situation in an organization at any given moment in time. Change the context and circumstances, and you will likely wind up with a very different representation that leads to very different interpretations and conclusions. Simplicity is a distraction. If you want to really know what is going on, then you need to embrace the messiness.
We are faced with a world of complexity. We also have a craving for simple and easy. Our brains and our psyches would really prefer to avoid the messy realities of the world and the inherent difficulty of trying to solve persistent and intractable problems. When faced with a complex problem, we will very often substitute a much simpler answer and pretend that is true. This is where simple gets very complex indeed.
One of the essential challenges in successfully facilitating remote meetings is that—to put not too fine a point on it—they are online. Our normal meeting software is great for seeing and hearing the other person—as long as they don’t forget to unmute themselves—but for the most part that is all we get. If we want a different level of interaction, we need to think differently about what engagement looks like. The good news is that there are an enormous number of options with which to do exactly that.
Culture shapes how things get done in organizations. It also defines what gets believed, and what we accept as truths. We create a shorthand for what’s acceptable, and we broadly understand where the lines are that we should not cross. That’s all well and good, until we actually need to challenge the truths, and consider crossing the lines. When we need to stand up and stand out, things get interesting.
Liminality—the idea of in-between spaces as a source of growth and transformation—is a simple construct that’s difficult to live through. The art of storytelling is a complex, rich mine of insight with a similarly simple construct beneath it. The traditional of three-act narrative owes a lot to liminality, because it borrows a great deal from how to navigate the places in-between. Story is what shows us how to live, to imagine and to consider what’s possible. The same structure is what allows us to grow and succeed.