How to use 1-10 Scales to Raise Awareness
Ask people at the beginning of a meeting (surprise them if possible), to rate their current level of trust on a scale of 1-10. Ask them to not think and follow their gut, to write the number down. Tell them they will not have to share it. Ask them to rate their trust in this very moment, situation, and context. Ask them to pick their own definition of trust.
Later, invite them to revisit (or just remember) that number. Let them reflect on the process and share—in pairs, small groups, with the large group—what they noticed. What influenced their choice, what made them pick that specific evaluation. They may share the number, yet that’s not the point: you want them to share what happened in their inner world when they picked the number. And how they make sense of the whole thing now.
Debrief as you wish. Invite them to reflect on the reflection and sharing process – what did they notice when they had the insights, when they made sense of their sense-making?
Variations: you can pick any “messy” concept: happiness, commitment, confidence, love…
When we put a number to something that’s as messy and complex, individual and situational as “trust”, we compress, condense, crystallise complexity. If we do it fast, otherwise our rational mind will simplify—which is not at all the same thing.
Note that the scale doesn’t make sense at all. Do not compare people’s numbers. Linearity is seductive. Do not: get people to agree on a number, calculate an average, or do anything that you might have see people do with numbers in maths. This is important: Reality is messy. It is complex, situational, and how we make sense of it (aka perception) is individual and highly dependent on our intention.
Talk and Exchange Thoughts about a Complex Mess
We need to linearise to talk – speech works in time, and stories are linear. The only purpose of the number is to have a quick peek into the right, intuitive, contextual, non-verbal side of your brain (yes I know this model is simplified). What this does – and any exercise that puts messy ideas into logical terms or a story – is integrating the left and right strengths of your brain.
Dan Siegel explains that beautifully and with more context in this video. Get his book Mindsight to learn more.
The main learning, and real integration, happens when we reflect. This is a quick and short version of the same integration and sense-making process that happens with a messy canvas exercise. We reflect on how we arrived at that number (we make that up, we can’t know how we picked a number, it’s retrospective coherence). This is integrating different kinds of knowing: the conscious knowledge we already could have put into words in advance, and the tacid, intuitive (unconscious, or rather, not-yet-conscious) knowledge. As we are bringing things into our awareness (we know that we know it and pay attention to the knowing) and focus attention, we change our brain. And that’s a story for another post.
The ideas in this article were inspired by
- Dave Snowden on practical wisdom on complexity
- Dan Siegel on neurobiology, specifically the ideas of mindsight and integration
- Michael Sahota on the use of scales…