Focus on the Forest AND the Trees, Zooming-In and Zooming-Out


You have heard the saying "seeing the forest through the trees," and maybe in the corporate world, you have been told that you are too detail-oriented, and you need to see the forest through the trees. As with everything in life, context is everything. Your brain does not do absolutes; it only deals with relationships and meaning-making. That being said, sometimes we need to focus on both the forest and the trees. We need to bring the details into focus so we can understand what is truly going on and then look at the bigger picture to see how it relates to other parts of the bigger system.

This makes me think of the Zoom framework developed by Rosabeth Moss Kanter. The framework offers a dynamic model that can help leaders increase their own range of vision and establish conditions that enable success. Zooming in brings the details into sharp focus and see what is really happening. Once you have an idea of what is really happening, you can then change your perspective and see what else is going on. This is where you Zoom out to get the big-picture, which is especially important in decision making. When people are far out, they can map the whole territory before taking action. They see events as examples of general patterns rather than as a personal incident. They put things in context and stress the larger principles.

The lens leaders view the world through can help or hinder their ability to make good strategic decisions, especially during a crisis. It can help them embrace new opportunities while continuing to operate with principles that build sustainable institutions in the long run. Leaders should make room to zoom, or else they may be doomed (oh how clever I am).


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