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Insight Is More Than What Meets the Eye

September 1, 1997
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Related Topics: The HR Profession, Featured Article
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Seeing is believing. At least that's what the world would have us think. As HR professionals, we're in desperate need of a tool that helps us see-beyond the obvious. That tool is insight. Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines insight as "the power or act of seeing into a situation" or "the act or result of apprehending the inner nature of things or seeing intuitively." Insight-and the answers it fosters-results from focused thinking about situations that seem to have no answer.

Use your internal wisdom. We need insight into ourselves, our employees and into our companies' goals. But it isn't an obvious tool to use, especially because we've been conditioned to perceive ourselves from the external world. Rarely have we allowed ourselves to listen to our inner voice. We all have an internal wisdom that allows us to see the dynamics about situations in new ways. We all have the ability to gather truth about any topic and to get a more accurate perspective by focusing inward.

When we tap into this ability to see from the inside out, we see more of our value, because we use both the external circumstances and the internal information to reach conclusions. We find we don't need to be as dependent on the outside world to define the truth of a given situation. As we lessen our dependence on external conditions for our understanding of life and success, we become less reactive, which opens the door to more insight. We begin to see the work world more clearly and expansively.

An insightful role model. Chris Turner is a person who emulates this behavior, and it stems from her extraordinary insight. Turner recently left Xerox Business Systems after 16 years to become a principle in a new company, Future Scouts, with offices in Rochester, New York, and Laguna Beach, California. Chris spent her last four years at Xerox teaching and reinforcing a new way to be at work. Her title was Learning Person: "I denounced all conventional titles," she said, "because none of them makes any sense if I, or any of us, am going to create an organization in which all employees are creative, challenged and contributing."

I spent several hours with Turner, discussing her workplace philosophy. She said that work should be a place of fun, productivity and accomplishment, and yet so much of workers' time is spent figuring out where they are and how they must behave to get ahead. This thinking keeps workers stuck. They get trapped in a hierarchical system of thinking, losing the natural ability to have insight.

See through childlike eyes. How do we develop insight, was my next question to Turner. She said, "Look at your workplace through childlike eyes. Look at your company, the rules and especially the language. Ask yourself, 'Does this make any sense?' For instance, why do we make 100 percent of the employees adhere to rules and policies that usually only apply to 1 percent or less of the employee population? That makes no sense. If we looked at business issues as human issues, helping people get involved, finding new ways to use their minds, what could happen?"

This insight is so needed today. Employees are hungry for a sense of fulfillment. In HR, we need to be coaches, truly helping employees with their behaviors and their willingness to be different and to change.

This leads us back to insight. First, we must have insight to tell ourselves the truth: that we're being called upon to assist and champion a radical change in the workplace. Second, we need to rely on our insight and intuition to help lead others though this time. Third, we must advocate and champion other employees in developing and using their insight. This could be our greatest challenge to date. It's certainly more fulfilling and far more demanding than any role we've ever played so far. Are we willing? Do we have the insight to follow through?

Workforce, September 1997, Vol. 76, No. 9, p. 133.

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