The concept of looking “below the surface” is a common one, and for good reason. Hiding below the surface are the details that often reveal the real truth about what is perceived on the surface. “Below the surface” lies the frenetic activity beneath the visible image of serenity — aka “Duck Syndrome.” Or, if icebergs are your metaphor of choice, what lies beneath can be a variety of things:
- the imagination to see what is possible;
- the hard work behind visible success;
- the outsized influence of attitudes;
- the power of subconscious thought;
- the makeup of organizational culture;
- the people behind a successful advertisement;
- the revenue potential of help content;
- the software and services that make cloud computing work;
- the hidden opportunities to save operational costs;
- the unaccounted-for costs of war;
- the need for chiropractic care;
- and even the real cause of your belly fat!
What rhetorical heavy lifting can’t an iceberg metaphor do??
As good and necessary as it is to be reminded often to look “below the surface,” rising to look above it often gets overlooked. If the former stands for digging into the hidden details, the latter yields its own hidden treasure of information: perspective.
Like a submarine that ends up running aground due to losing its bearings, leaders can become so focused on the details that they lose track of where they are. Performance data and organizational feedback can give a leader great insight into where the team is headed and how well they are operating towards their goal. However, like the charts and display panels inside the windowless submarine, even the most detailed set of data is incomplete without the occasional view from above the waves.
Regardless of the nature of your endeavor, there are deep currents of change that are effecting your efforts whether you are aware of them or not. Sometimes, the only way to observe them is to see things from a perspective as far from the details as possible.
For example, if you are someone involved in any type of tech-related business, there are the myriad of details about your business … and then there are the deep water tidal shifts that will absolutely affect your business like those described by Kevin Kelly in his latest book, The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future. These trends are subsurface currents pushing civilization itself towards —
- more sharing and less hiding,
- more copying and less protecting,
- more flowing and less restricting,
- more accessing and less owning.
It is nearly impossible to appreciate the scope of the changes trends like these are making from inside them. Think of it like being a snorkeler caught in an outgoing riptide: if you keep your focus on the interesting details under the water, you won’t really have an appreciation for the movement happening both around you and to you. Only by looking up, above the water, and seeing the sight of a shore growing more and more distant will the full reality of your situation become apparent.