Zoom in and zoom out to see the big picture and details

Learning how to adjust our perspective lens is a valuable skill.

Just like a telescopic lens that zooms in to focus and isolate everything else except the object, we isolate our surroundings and lose the awareness. Same goes for harping on the big picture, so much that we forget that the details do matter.

Below we explore some examples on zooming in and out between the big picture and details.

Example #1 – Goal setting (big picture) Vs Systems (specifics)

Some people set big goals for the new year. However more often than not, it’s a really big but vague goal. For example

  • I’m going to lose weight
  • I will earn more this year
  • I will travel more
  • I will read more books

These are goals, yes, but they are just another ideal big picture mindset we have in our minds. At the point of telling themselves that ‘I’m going to lose weight’, they picture at the end of 31 Dec 20XX they have lost the muffin top, but neglect that action plans (aka systems) that entails in losing away the devil tugging onto their midsection.

Actions plans requires changing up routines, going at the grind even when they don’t feel like it, following the system religiously, and this is really really hard.

Let’s say Terence wants to gain some muscle, he’s pretty out of shape, and hasn’t been exercising since… Oh wait, he doesn’t remember. The goal of ‘I Terence, will get fit this year!!!’ is a huge mountain of a goal. Coupled with the fact that only 9.2% of the people who write new year resolutions fail to achieve them. This is a scenario setup for failure.

Of course Terence can be really serious about it and setup the system so easy and realistic like:

Each time, before I shower I will do pushups and;

I will do 5 pushups today.

This week I will do 5 pushups every single day before I shower.

By the end of the month my target is 10 pushups every single day before I shower.

3 months later I will be able to do 20 pushups every single day before I shower.

Give me 12 months and I will be able to do 50 standard military pushup every single day before I shower.

While building the consistency habit, in 2 years time I will be able to do 100 pushups every single day before I shower.

And so on and so forth.

Think about how Terence will look like at the end of the 2 years…

Example #2 – Management Vs Junior employees

Organisational vision and goals are high level thinking. In both tall and flat org structured companies both vision and goals are trickled down from the top management. Often this results in entry level and junior employees bearing the grunt menial work that is ‘meaningless.’ However, without the daily mundane work, the company cannot function. Someone has got to do it.

On the same note, the vision and goals must be clearly communicated downwards, such that the people at the bottom knows what is expected of them because of bigger organisational goals. And once everyone is on the same page (both zooming in and out), junior employees can provide feedback on whether the strategy is working, if it’s not, what needs to be tweaked or improved1.

Example #3 – iPhones, Legos, & Mindmaps

An iPhone is made up of thousands of internals. A lego figurine is made up of many small lego blocks. A mind map has many branches and each branch can standalone on it’s own.

Each chip, each lego block, each branch, represent a piece operating in the grand scheme of things. Only when we see the big picture we know what’s going on. Like a mind map, we can start to make connections when we see the bigger picture. A single lego block may not mean anything, but it could mean everything to someone who has been searching for it to complete their masterpiece.

Closing thoughts

Zooming in into very detailed matters is useless if they don’t know the grand scheme of things (or refuse to know — see Dunning-Kruger effect). While zooming out looking at the big picture may be visionary, don’t forget the old adage: ‘devil is in the details.’

Sometimes we forget to see the big picture and it leads to frustration or lack of reason on why we are doing what we are doing. Sometimes we forget to see the details inside the big picture and it leads to procrastination or abstract thinking.

Connecting the dots backwards requires some level of faith, where the big picture won’t be visible in the initial stages, somewhat murky in the middle, only to piece the puzzle towards the end. This is a frustrating process.

This whole idea of zooming in and out may not be applicable to all areas, but it is a good tool to have when we find ourselves frustrated then we can ask ourselves:

Are there potential areas where you can zoom in or zoom out to have a better understanding?

  1. This is the ideal state of an organisation where junior employee’s feedback are considered and implemented. While management’s directives are followed by satisfied junior employees.This may not be the case for your company but it’s a good idea to think about.

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