Tools vs Presence

At ALE2014 in Kraków, we started interesting conversations around effectiveness of specific tools vs the effectiveness of our presence. It inspired me to write the draft post about Magic, Mystery or Science.

Presence, in this context, means being in the moment. Practitioners of mindfulness refer to this as being mode, in contrast to doing mode in which we spend most of our busy time. Being present, we don’t judge, we don’t advise or question, we just are. It enables us to fully focus on another human being, to see what is really going on. We stop pretending.

I’ll summarise my thinking around this with a few simple heuristics. My bottom line:

Presence Makes All The Difference

Change consists of three parts:

  • Raise awareness
  • Identify options
  • Make choices
Three Elements of Change

Three Elements of Change

Let’s start with the simplest and last step. What enables us to make choices? Given a certain level of awareness and clarity of available options choice just requires confidence and courage. Both are increased in the presence of others, we’re more confident and courageous in community.

Identify options: here tools clearly help. Backlogs or impact maps for example help us gain clarity about our options. The helpfulness of any tool we use is limited though: a tool doesn’t give feedback, provide an alternative perspective or give us empathy to remove emotional blocks. To identify options we didn’t allow ourselves to see before, we need the presence of the other.

Awareness is quite similar, especially in groups. To allow every group member to feel safe, groups limit their comfort zone to the intersection of everybody’s comfort zones, agreeing on what everyone is comfortable with. I won’t say something I see if it’s making my peers uncomfortable. The presence of a compassionate outsider creates a space for exploration that is significantly larger than anyone’s comfort zone. We may choose to be aware of issues we didn’t dare to think about before.

Comfort Zones

Comfort Zones—Individual and Groups

Tools assist in gaining awareness – for instance by providing data – and they surly help in identifying and evaluating our options. Without presence, we’re running a high risk of not daring to think (and talk!) out of the box and become stuck in groupthink.

Your Experience

What did you experience? How would you answer this question? Do the tools you bring make more of a difference than you do by being present?
I’d love to start a conversation 🙂.

2 Comments

  1. Tools vs Presence - Trust Artist | Art of Hosti...
    September 10, 2014

    […] Change has three stages: Raising Awareness, Identifying Options and making Choices. Being present is instrumental for all of them. ("Presence means being in the moment.  […]

    Reply
  2. Tools vs Presence | Complex systems and project...
    September 10, 2014

    […] Change has three stages: Raising Awareness, Identifying Options and making Choices. Being present is instrumental for all of them. ("Presence means being in the moment.  […]

    Reply

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