Seeing through the crisis | 5 minute read
Philosopher, partner at Wemean
The crisis has forced us to stop looking at things and finally see them. Let’s share a few words on this distinction, which comes from the philosopher Bergson. Most of the time, we put labels on situations, enabling us to quickly identify them and move on to action. To paraphrase Bergson: when we look at an object, usually, we don’t see it; what we see are the conventional signs that enable us to recognise the object and distinguish it practically from another, for convenience.1 However, as Bergson would go on to say, it is only when we pay attention to the uniqueness of things that we can really see them – and therefore measure their singularity in order to provide an adequate response, to adapt and to truly innovate.
By plunging us into an unprecedented situation, the crisis has shattered our preconceived filters. At first blinded, our eyes have gradually been opened. We have seen the dysfunctions that we previously considered normal. Remote working has become some sort of optical apparatus, a veritable telescope helping us to put many things into perspective: by seeing ‘at a distance’ (the literal meaning of the prefix tele) the way we work, we can measure, for example, the importance of direct human contact, as suggested by Frédéric Duponchel in his editorial.
Above all, we have started to explore our blind spots and hidden regions – these zones that can be identified by the ‘Johari window’2 , a matrix that reminds us of our individual perspectives and biases. Each individual, just like each organisation, has his or her ‘arena’ (known to self and known to others), ‘façade’ (known to self but unknown to others), ‘blind spot’ (unknown to self but known to others) and ‘unknown’ (unknown to self and unknown to others) – it is the exploration of this last zone that the crisis has made possible, or rather necessary. We should note that to realise this exploration, numerous organisations lean towards the clarification of their ‘vision’: the fact that topics like the ‘raison d’être’ and the ‘mission’ remain high on the company agenda shows the fundamental need to adopt new ways of seeing one’s business.
To train for this new way of seeing, reading a recently published work of art history alone qualifies as an ocular workout: in Le Strabisme du tableau. Essai sur les regards divergents du tableau3 , Nathalie Delbard invites us to take a fresh look at classical portraits and discover that numerous subjects in the pieces have a slight squint, not because of problems of sight, the author explains from the outset, but because the painters thus encourage us, the viewers, to shift our gaze off-centre. Our points of reference are wavering, but new perspectives are opening up. As Apollinaire put it, ‘Victory above all will be / To see well in the distance / To see everything / From close / And let everything have a new name’. 4
Sophie Chassat is a philosopher, a partner at the advisory firm WEMEAN and a corporate director. She works on strategic issues linked to the contribution of business projects: defining them, activating them operationally and determining their impact on governance.
1 Bergson, Madrid conferences on the human soul (1916) in. Mélanges.
2 The Johari window was conceptualised by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham in 1955 to represent (and improve!) communication between two entities.
3 From L’incidence Editeur, 2020. The title can be roughly translated as ‘The squint in works of art. An essay on divergent gazes in works of art’
4 “La Victoire”, in. Caligrammes (1918). The original French: ‘La Victoire avant tout sera / De bien voir au loin / De tout voir / De près / Et que tout ait un nom nouveau’