Seeing the wood for the trees: 5 steps to help you step back and see the bigger picture

A photo of trees in a wood - you can see a path through the trees, but the tree trunks dominate the image.‘If someone can’t see the wood for the trees, they are unable to understand what is important in a situation because they are giving too much attention to details.’

I reckon I spend a lot of time in the wood staring at bark, let alone single trees, so this week I have spent time working out how step back and see the bigger picture.

1.    Remember what you are doing

Sounds stupid I know, but each thing you do is part of something bigger.  It might have a specific aim, or be part of your more general purpose. You just need to remember what it is. Write it down, stick it up and look at it daily. 

2.    Remember why you are doing it

That aim or purpose will also have a raft of underlying reasons beneath it. Is it about changing the world, building your own personal security, making a difference? Get those up on the wall too if you can.

3.    Articulate the what and why

You need to be able to share what you are doing and why – concisely, cleanly and in a way that shows your passion. Spend some time thinking about how to do this best. Is there a metaphor or analogy that would help others ‘get the picture’?

4.    Look beyond the picture frame

If you are in charge of the bigger picture, you need to know the layout of the gallery, the regional and national visual arts sector, and even the international art world itself if you want to push the metaphor. Broaden your perspective. Expand your thinking.

5.    Take your time

Decisions have consequences; so don’t rush the important ones before you’ve thought through just what might happen as a result. The nearer you are to the trees, the harder it is to think about the full ramifications of what you are going to do. Take time; think systematically about what you are doing and the impact it will have on the others involved. Then decide.

In doing my research I came across the stonecutters story:

One day a traveller, walking along a lane, came across 3 stonecutters working in a quarry. Each was busy cutting a block of stone. Interested to find out what they were working on, he asked the first stonecutter what he was doing. “I am cutting a stone!” Still no wiser the traveller turned to the second stonecutter and asked him what he was doing. “I am cutting this block of stone to make sure that it’s square, and its dimensions are uniform, so that it will fit exactly in its place in a wall.” A bit closer to finding out what the stonecutters were working on but still unclear, the traveller turned to the third stonecutter. He seemed to be the happiest of the three and when asked what he was doing replied: “I am building a cathedral.”

What’s your cathedral?

Thanks to VinothChandar for the image and remember if you have enjoyed this and want to read more, you can subscribe to Jo Verrent’s blog by email.

One thought on “Seeing the wood for the trees: 5 steps to help you step back and see the bigger picture

  1. The only hurdle to accessing this is of course human
    limitations and the fact that the brain does not function solely as a learning tool for the human being.
    * Team answer sheets – Basically a grid lined A4 type sheet with answer write in numbered boxes and a line on top for the team name.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *