So, as senior executives, what can we do to overcome our own biases that prevent us from seeing possible futures for our organizations and markets? In essence, how can we become visionary.
We have to become better at sensing by creating systems and routines to dismantle our biases, to put them in check, in order to see reality better. We have to disconnect ourselves from the way we have framed the world, from the way we understand the world, and try to glimpse the future through fresh eyes.
John Cage was an experimental composer born in 1912. He was a leading figure of the post-war avant garde movement. Like many artists, he constantly challenged his understanding of things and his own expertise. He questioned the very nature of what music was or what it could be. He said of himself, “I’m trying to check my habits of seeing, to counter them for the sake of greater freshness. I am trying to be unfamiliar with what I’m doing.”
Every executive might take Cage’s words to heart.
If you want to see better, to sense, to be able to see around corners like Jack Welch, you need to put your habits in check. Unlearn what you know. Try to overcome some of your cognitive biases in order to see reality better and then, try to look forward and extrapolate possible futures.
This is not about data analysis, which breaks information down into smaller and smaller bits. This is about synthesis, about unifying, bringing everything together into the whole. This is about becoming visionary.
When we synthesize a pattern and feel the wholeness of it, we experience harmony or kalos. Our awareness is not defined by the rational, by analysis, but by a complete, emotional and intuitive understanding. This is the moment of having a vision, of recognizing truth. This is sensing.
Sensing the future starts by becoming open to possibility, by setting aside our attachment to current patterns and ways of understanding, and then, by recognizing the many human biases that surround you and your organization.
Any executive in any industry can develop routines and activities to see better and to foster values that support a dynamic sensing mindset and culture throughout the organization. Learning to sense better, becoming visionary in the face of uncertainty, is the first step toward organizational agility.