Deadlocks and Bigger Wholes

In the last interview, before I landed my job at Luno, the interviewer asked me how I would handle a vehement disagreement with a colleague wherein I reach a deadlock situation and no consensus in sight.

I can’t recall my exact answer, but I've seen how it is the disagreements with other people that create the most fundamental disconnect and the cause of deadlock situations. The narrative often revolves around how it's the other people who don't get design or it's the other people who are too obsessed with the microscopic details. 

In Crucial Conversations, Kerry Patterson extends a reminder that these intense emotions often come when we dwell on how others are different from ourselves and that we can counteract these feelings by looking for ways in which we are similar.

The greatest unifier I've experienced is the notion that we are all part of the same, bigger whole, whether it is crafting copy, replying to a customer's request, or planning a new market launch.

If we need to visualise this, each of the things everyone is working on is part of a network full of nodes, continuously creating balance or imbalance to the larger whole.

For example, zooming way in might show how changing a button's copy bring clarity and stability to a small aspect of the whole.

But if you zoom way out, the peripherals might start to show a larger network with a complex interplay of connections between systems, industry regulations, or a legacy of compliance rules.

Both are parts of the same whole, yet it has the potential to create a rift between us.

Christopher Alexander’s analog frames it like this:

“Intuitively we may guess that the beauty of a building, its life, and its capacity to support life all come from the fact that it is working as a whole. A view of the building as a whole means that we see it as part of an extended and undivided continuum. It is not an isolated fragment in itself, but part of the world which includes the gardens, walls, trees, streets beyond its boundaries, and other buildings beyond those. And it contains many wholes within it – also unbounded and continuous in their connections.

And so, in the whirlwind of heated debates, deadlock situations might arise where no one is about to give up their ideals.

It's in the pausing that we start to appreciate that neither your work nor my work is an isolated fragment, but part of a world which includes the smallest of details, meticulously crafted from bits, bytes, pixels, and characters, to the largest parts shaped by a cosmic perspective.

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