perceived barriers

How often do we perceive barriers? How often do we allow others perceptions of barriers to continue, or to annoy us, or to cause us to act quite randomly? 

Based on no scientific evidence, I’d say quite often. 

Too often we do think of all the things that could go wrong, before we think about what could go right and well before we consider if, on balance, the potential wins outweigh the potential losses. 

Even more often, we (well I, once I started paying attention) go straight to the barrier and that’s where we pause. It’s okay to pause. What’s less okay (unless crossing or bypassing the barrier brings a real chance of serious injury or major project setback), is stopping. 

The pause is a moment for reflection, for thinking about what the barrier is (and if it’s even relevant), our way through, around, over, how and with. Stopping is so very alone. 

It was in reading (and re-skim reading) Brugnach et al’s Coping with ambiguity” (sorry peeps, I have a hardcopy but the abstract is online), that I realised that while having a range of different frames can create ambiguity in natural resource management, all those frames can also be useful. Pausing with a team is excellent for reminding yourself that there are multiple ways/frames/paths. You still need strategies for dealing with that but I think it important to remember those different frames might actually bring you to a solution because some of them don’t perceive the same barrier that you do. And perhaps your frame means you don’t perceive the same barriers as another. 

If you are in a leadership position (as I have recently found myself), finding the whathow and with during the pause is a critical part of the team. You’re not tackling that wall alone; we’re in it together. The solution isn’t mine; it’s ours. Sometimes, you realise the perception of the barrier is all yours; your team doesn’t even see it or they do and they’ve already started the trek around. (Why yes, since you ask, I work with some pretty awesome people.) 

A shared solution is one that benefits even if it doesn’t completely work because we tried (and hopefully succeeded together). All those Facebook memes about growing together can’t be wrong can they? 



Brugnach, M., Dewulf, A., Henriksen, H.J., & van der Keur, P. (2011). More is not always better: Coping with ambiguity in natural resources management. Journal of Environmental Management, 92(1), 78-84.  

And a comment by Ted Alter during the 2013 Leadership and Community Engagement short course. 


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