THE STRATEGY OF AMPLIFYING
The beauty of simplicity
Omdenken’s third strategy is known as amplifying, which means to focus your energy on what is going well in a process, and amplify, or do more, of that thing. In essence it’s a simple strategy, but therein lies the rub: because this strategy is so simple, it is often underestimated. Sometimes we make the mistake of regarding simple things as ‘dumb’ or ‘unintelligent’. That we make this mistake isn’t because we don’t understand the strategy, or that we think we can’t use it. We make this mistake because we’ve been programmed to focus on things that aren’t working. We look at the stuff we’re not doing well. That’s how our culture works: we see the problems, the shortcomings, the mistakes, as opposed to the stuff that’s working.
The Difficult Students Case
Check out this real world example of the strategy of amplifying from the Fioretti College in Veghel, the Netherlands: for an extended period of time, the teachers were having a hard time with a particularly ‘difficult’ group of students. The students felt they weren’t being seen and heard by the teachers. The teachers, in turn, felt the students wouldn’t listen and that they consistently disrupted the learning process. The teachers often lost their patience during class which made the students say, “See! They don’t like us.” The whole thing was a vicious downward spiral. Until the teachers decided to take a different approach. For an entire month, the teachers gave the students genuine compliments about actual things that the students had achieved. They gave the compliments to individual students as well as to the group collectively. Within two weeks, according to the teachers, the atmosphere in the class was entirely reversed. What began as an obstinate group, had transformed into a cooperative class. At the end of the school year, one of the students proudly said to his mentor, “We’re the best class they’ve had here in a long time, huh?” His mentor agreed wholeheartedly!
The Breast Cancer Case
This second example of amplifying involves blind women in Germany. For their entire lives they’d been seen for the things they couldn’t do. Until a German gynecologist named Frank Hoffman came up with a brilliant idea. Hoffman knew that blind people often develop one of their other senses in a more advanced way. In this case, it was the sense of touch. In his project Discovering Hands, Hoffmann and his team used the fact that blind peoples’ fingertips are often highly developed from all the years of reading braille. As a result, blind women were trained to use their hands to detect breast cancer tumors. As it turns out, blind women were able to detect tumors with a size of 4 to 6 millimeters. Properly trained doctors could only detect tumors of 1 to 2 centimeters! It might not seem like much, but the difference is extremely important. Breast cancer is particularly a disease that is best beaten by detecting it early, and the blind women were excellent human scanners. As one of the blind participants in the Discovering Hands project said, “for the first time in my life I wasn’t seen as someone with handicaps or limitations, but as a person with an extraordinary talent.”
Focusing on the things that work instead of the things that don’t isn’t considered normal in our culture.
We are more comfortable analyzing what went wrong and correcting it in hopes of improving the mistakes.
But how about a new approach: The Strategy of Amplifying.
Figure out what’s going well and keep doing it!