• Nina

Two levels of awareness

There is more to work than what we can measure and count

Our professional face only shows a tiny bit of us

We are used to think about work interactions from one angle only. To be professional, one must be factual, precise, concrete, efficient, 100% predictable, and preferably with a smooth and polite smile on the face in any circumstance. We are asked to hide our emotions, for they are a sign of weakness, and business is a world were we should be fit, strong, assertive and confident at all times.

Yet business, or work, is not much else than a bunch of people coming together to make things that they can't do alone. Like building a plane, run nuclear power plants or replacing someone's heart during surgery. Human interactions are the core of business. For we, humans, are the only ones that make business happen.

Human interactions are like an iceberg: most of what happens is unseen

There is more to human interactions that what we can measure and count. I like to think of it as an iceberg. Above sea level (Level 1) are all the things that we can easily apprehend: what we say, the times at which we come in and come out, the company's policies, the org chart, the processes. Under sea level (Level 2) lies the intangible dynamics: unspoken assumptions, reflexes aquired by experience, beliefs, zeal, history, and of course, emotions


We know since 1971 that communication is only 7 percent verbal and 93 percent non-verbal. I'm quite convinced that understanding and reacting follow the same rule. A majority of the way we cognitively draw conclusions and respond to situations is not directly accessible to our consciousness unless we make a particular effort. Both at an individual level, and at a collective level.

"You cannot have exterior development without interior development to hold it in place." Ken Wilber

Level 2 overrules yet it is often overlooked. We don't really take it into account in the way we work. We don't do it mostly because we don't know how to address such a complex system. The soft skills required to dive under the sea are not taught at school. Emotional intelligence has not yet made its way to the forefront of academic teaching. Unequipped, we are left lost and overwhelmed. And for good reasons.

Navigating Level 2 is not easy, but can be learnt

Diving under the sea is scary. The usual strategies we developped to navigate the world are no longer useful. Level 2 is a world ruled by feelings and emotions. A place where our projections of what we want to be are the biggest obstruction to understand who we really are. To navigate in it we need to learn to tune in. With humility. To go inwards. To embrace the dark, to decipher what our emotions tell us, to identify our patterns of reactivity, to see ourselves clearly. Even when what we discover is ugly.

It takes a lot of effort and courage to learn these skills. But as any other skillset, they're accessible to any of us, under the right guidance. And the reward is prodigious. When we know how to dive, we can skillfully use all the information concealed under sea to understand faster what is going on within us and in our organization. We see more quickly the drags and blockages that prevent us from moving forwards. Conflicts happen less often and get resolved faster. We find more easily the appropriate response.

Collective intuition develops and can become your most powerful strategy building tool.

Developing organizational consciousness requires a tremendous effort from key individuals in a team. Yet it's the biggest asset you can ofer to yourself and your team to reach your dreams.

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