In her brilliant book The Creative Habit, dance choreographer Twyla Tharp describes how each of us prefers a certain scale of things, a scope of view from which we tend to see the world. When you dream, create, analyze, or solve problems, do you gravitate toward details and minutiae, or do you lean toward the possibilities, the expansive horizon of your vision?

In other words, if you were a camera, which type of lens do you use the most: wide-angle, macro, or standard?

  • As a wide-angle lens lover, you’re filled with enthusiasm when you can see the big picture or enlist others in your vision. You think in broad arcs of time and space, drawn by potential. The world needs you; your gift is pulling us all into a better future, to dream of what can be.
  • If you’re a macro-lens enthusiast, you prefer to be up close with your subject, whether it’s the hairs on the back of a beetle’s legs or the formulas embedded in your spreadsheet. You don’t mind sifting through tons of information to find a single scrap of gold. We need you, too, to give us the wonder of small things that make big things possible. We need your intense focus to do the patient, painstaking work that brings the future to life.
  • If neither wide-angle nor macro fit your style, you might prefer a standard lens. There’s nothing “standard” about you, though: you occupy the important middle ground described by the human-scale. Your attention is drawn to the span of a single human life-time; the sizes of rooms, vehicles, towns; the interface between technology and users; the relationships between people. We need you just as much as the wide-angles and the macros, to bridge the gap between these divergent scales of seeing and to ensure solutions make sense for people.

Use this idea! You can improve the way you work with members of your team:

  • Know which parts of your project need the particular awareness of each lens, then give each point of view occasions to contribute to your team’s work. Remember, each person is able to look through all lenses; sometimes they just need an invitation to do so!
  • In decision-making and in disagreements, consider if differences in scales might be involved. Are you diving too deep into the weeds (too macro lens) or not making progress because vision has captured all the attention (too wide-angle lens)? If so, it can be helpful to suggest a change of perspective, rather than blaming individuals.
  • In creative problem-solving, notice when your team is leaning too much in one direction; then challenge them to use a less-used lens to stimulate new thinking.

Three Questions for You and Your Teams

  • What is one thing in your life that you could look at more closely, to appreciate or understand it better?
  • How might you take a more expansive view on a current issue in your team? What options become available from this broader vantage point?
  • If a sense of overwhelm exists in any part of your life, what could you do to right-size the problem/solution to fit your human strengths and limits?


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