Temple Grandin sees the world differently and as a result, she has innovated things that have been taken for granted for many years. If you are curious about this ‘something’, you will just have to look her up on the Internet or watch the movie, Temple Grandin. The movie is the story of this amazing woman who sees the world differently – who sees the world from the vantage point of someone who is autistic. In every way that it could, the movie helps the viewer see the world the way Temple sees the world. (Grandin is still living, writing, teaching, and speaking.) In that movie, I caught a glimpse of how different the world can look to someone who sees the world in pure visual form. As a result of her ability to see the world this way, she has been able to offer real options for existing problems from ranchers to mothers.
I begin this blog talking about Temple Grandin because I want to introduce another person who, though not autistic, thinks differently yet brings real options for existing problems from individuals to whole corporations. I want to introduce you to David Hutchens. He is a 7x author, creator of learning products and communications solutions for the most influential brands in the world. He is the author of A Slice of Trust and Outlearning the Wolves.
I’ve often said that observing ourselves is an important part of observation, and I’ve talked about observation as a means of great learning. I have always understood this as someone who is active in observing the world around me and then reminding myself that I need to observe myself as well. To me this is what a typical extravert does – interact, interact, interact, and then remember to reflect internally
But David describes himself an introvert. His observation begins with himself. As he describes it, “My partners are scattered, so what can I observe? Who can I observe? Starting with observing myself, I have a richer dialog than I would have with others. I talk to myself about what works, what doesn’t work. I do this to such a level that when I do go to the client site, the feedback confirms my internal process. I rarely gain huge surprises. The external interaction never feels as rich as self-observation.” Can you imagine thinking through a problem so thoroughly that you can anticipate almost perfectly how others will react?
David goes on to explain. “There’s a storytelling piece to this. For example, when I develop learning solutions for my client partners, I imagine the program in action. I see the story. And I do this at a very fine degree of detail. I see learners coming into the room and finding their seats; I feel their emotions and curiosity as they encounter the materials for the first time; I hear the private thoughts of the client sponsors who are watching from the side of the room and are nervous about what might go wrong; I experience moments of surprise, connection, and delight as learners engage with each element of the program.
“So I create this very rich future story. This is not a fast process. I need to take long walks, or swim laps. But it is a very introverted, private process. Once I’ve told myself the story – and done so through multiple lenses (rational, emotional, and so on) – then my work is just a matter of building something to create that reality.”
His description was quite an insight for me. I always thought that the best thinking is done in conversation. David has shown me that deep, silent thinking can also prove useful. Just like Grandin, David introduced me to another world of perception. David’s and my conclusion about the importance of self-observation was the same, but we came to that conclusion from totally different paths. And I have come upon a new lesson.
It makes me think about the variety of ways people view the world around them and what potential rests in exploring this ignored place. What unexpected insights would this other path of thinking give us if we were able to step onto it? And if not, what might we learn just by thinking about doing so? Grandin says that she is, “Different, but not less.” Do we ignore the possibilities of insight because we judge a way of thinking as less instead of different. Rather could we find ourselves, as David does, enjoying a richer understanding instead?
I’m truly curious to know what you, dear readers, think. What are your thoughts about this insight about thinking? How differently might the world look to you if you tried another path of thinking?
Photo by Red Maxwell