Levels of understanding, from the big picture to the granular details.

"Incrementalism is enemy of innovation" goes the mantra. It's another way of saying that innovation only occurs by breaking through to a higher plane.

"It's more important to do the right things than to do them right" means that lower planes are irrelevant if the higher planes are out of kilter. Only invest in efficiency after you've defined effectivenss.

Misunderstandings and incongruities arise when we interact with people who are operating on planes other than those we think they're on.



Levels of abstraction

  • marketing vs sales
  • info architecture vs html
  • ROI vs training
  • micro vs macro-economics

Levels of detail

  • big picture vs operations
  • dust vs clutter
  • forest vs trees
  • leadership vs management
  • systems vs code




  • short-term vs long
  • tomorrow or next year
  • now vs then
  • experienced duration
  • now vs future (horizon)


  • the neighborhood or the continent
  • my silo or yours
  • my industry or yours or all
  • my country or yours
  • this segment or another

Where the are you coming from?

If I'm on one plane and the individual I'm interacting with is on another, things are hunky-dory if we both agree where we are. For instance, the planner is working on things in the future, the doer on things at the moment.

Suppose, however, a doer plopped down in an empty cubicle in the planning section, and the other planners mistook him for one of their own. The planners would wonder why the new guy seemed oblivious to the big picture and overly focused on the short-term.

Similary, a planner mistaken for a doer would be catigated for procrastination, lack of focus, and sloth.

When they need to meet f2f, doers and planners synchronize their watches. Perhaps we need to be more explic about what time level we're working in.



Up & down

In the bad old days, say 1975 and before, the higher you went in the organizational hierarchy, the higher the plane on which you were expected to function.

  • Old school exec to worker: "You're not paid to think."
  • Old school worker: "Management doesn't get it."

Today Tom Peters exorts us all to "Be our own CEO" and to think of ourselves as a "Business of One." These are top-of-the-pile concepts. At the same time, we need to be in touch with customers and the little things that really matter. And this is lower in the pile. Lots of freedom, to be sure, but also lots of confusion. Lack of orientation. Motion sickness.








Differences in knowledge or opinion are the catalysts for learning and persuasion.


Up, Down, & Sideways

The Box

The intersection of one's horizontal and vertical planes forms a box, your box, where you are conceptually.

"Out of the box" for you may be way in the box for me.




perceived by red

1. Red thinks colleagues are more on the same page than they really are. Frustration

2. Red has it right but organization is missing big picture and the details.

3. Red thinks colleagues are dynamic when in fact they're all focused on the now. Red also misperceives all being on the same page. Super-frustration.



None of us operate in two dimensions. Our "boxes" are actually incredibly bumpy, complex objects.


Is it any wonder it's tough to get people together? It's a prickly situation.




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