What is scanning and why is it such an important part of organizational success?
Scanning is an individual or group’s ability to pay attention to what is going on around them, internally and externally. When you walk into a room, you immediately look around to see who is there, the layout, what is going on. This is scanning. Now each person scans for different things. Some people scan that same room for danger. Some scan for safety or what’s familiar. Others scan to see if there is anyone there that they know. Some scan for what is different. Some scan for gender or race or class for example– how many women or how many men are in the room. Some people have an agenda or clear goals and scan the room for the people they have attached to those goals. So why pay attention to your scanning? John Carter, my mentor and the President of the Gestalt OSD Center, is fond of reminding us that “those individuals and teams who are most efficient at scanning their internal and external environments and making meaning, will out perform those who are not every time”.
“How do you scan and what do you scan for?” is the question you should be asking. Then I want you to ask, “What am I missing because I scan for X and not Y?”
As important as what you scan for in assessing situations and leveraging them for your own goals, is what you don’t see. What is missing in your picture can greatly impact your ability to accomplish your goals or just see a complete picture of what is happening. For example, if you scan for the familiar, who in the room to you know, then you miss all the new people that could be potential new clients if you go to know them.
The second part of scanning is the internal scan. How are you scanning yourself? What in your internal world are you paying attention to i.e. your thoughts, your feelings, your heart, your gut, your physical being, your energy, your history, your present, your future, the impact of what is happening externally on you internally, what else? And how effective are you at shuttling back and forth between your internal scan and your scan of the external environment.
This is a powerful skill. As I facilitate meetings or coach clients, I am paying attention to multiple levels of system. I am constantly scanning my internal self, the room, the group dynamics, the energy of the group, the content of the session, how the world outside of the room is impacting the session and discerning and intuiting what is needed from me in each moment to support the goals and intention of the session and the bigger unit of work that we are engaged in together. This allows me to remind the client of context, of what they may be missing in their scanning process and all kinds of factors that can be taken into consideration and integrated into their decisions, solutions and actions. This is especially helpful in discerning strategies so as much of the current reality picture is taken into consideration. It is also critical when doing problem solving to minimize unintended consequences.
You can increase your scanning ability just by paying attention to what you pay attention to in any given day or moment. Observe yourself and your patterns. This will give you insights into where you are and you can begin to choose to stretch from your habitual behavior to pay attention to additional data points or information. There is no judgement here but the opportunity to broaden your skill in your efforts to be more effective in life and business.
For example, what in this article are you paying attention to, what feelings come up from your reading this blog, what does this tell you, how do you want to move forward now that you have this new awareness.
As always, I love your comments and questions. And if you need a conversation, you can use the link below to schedule time for us to talk…
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