Rediscovering a Sense of Place can be the beginning of more deeply engaging in a rapidly evolving situation.
“This isn’t Kansas anymore, Toto.”
[Wizard of Oz]
“God, what an outfield,” he says. “What a left field.”…”This must be heaven,” he says.
“No. It’s Iowa.”
[Shoeless Joe, W.P. Kinsella]
“Since that time, I have not complained about the weather, not one time. I’m glad there is weather…Why do people complain about the earth? We are living in the Garden of Eden.”
[In the Shadow of the Moon, Apollo astronaut Alan Bean]
“Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.” [Laurel and Hardy]
Four cardinal compass points help to center attention and re-establish direction for resolving conflicts that might otherwise fracture or fragment a community, an organization or an enterprise. An overview of this framework can be read here.
1. Sense of place
The simple phrase, “You are here” along with an equally simple arrow (big and red), and maybe an x or dot, is the remedy for all manner of confusion in an unfamiliar airport or urban center. And in these days of high social and geographic mobility, any random or not-so-random gathering of people has the added gift of imagination with adjustable focus and resolution. Part of the wonder of our times is the freedom to choose the context within which we recognize who we are and where we stand. That is, we can gain fresh insight into a situation by allowing our understanding of where we are to flex, larger or smaller, to discover new resources, relationships and opportunities.
This shared perception can be presented as a declaration, an image, or a story that identifies where we are standing in relationship to the greater scheme of things. At points of dramatic change or transition, this is especially critical, but some reference is required even in the most mundane situations to maintain the bearings of individual and group commitment. At the extreme, a sense of place involves self-consciously operating out of a “glass house,” that is, deciding to be visible to a broader community to which the business or organization holds itself accountable. Perception becomes declaration: Here We Stand.
You can tell when a shared sense of place is lost–the fragmentation of intention and effort is nearly immediate.
A key strategy is to broaden the context of space one or two levels higher to recover a sense of common ground. Like working with a projector, shifting the focus just slightly short and then slightly long until the point of greatest clarity is…right there!