As I discussed in the previous posting in this series (https://sfworkblog.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/rutenso-the-art-of-thriving-in-times-of-constant-change/), rutenso is a philosophy for thriving in times of constant change. It’s the power the makes the Solution-Focused (SF) approach so interesting and different. One interesting aspect of working in environments where change is happening all the time is the big power of tiny signs.
What is a ‘sign’? In the dictionary, sign (noun) is given as:
“An object, quality, or event whose presence or occurrence indicates the probable presence or occurrence of something else.”
In SF work, a sign is an indicator that useful change has happened… either in the past, the present or the future. Note that this is not at all the same as ‘what will bring change about’. That’s an action. A sign is something that tells us that things are moving in the right direction. It might turn out to be actionable or it may not. So, what’s the advantage of talking about tiny signs?
Suppose we want to describe a better future – something we want to have happen. It’s interesting what happens when we do this in terms of ‘first tiny signs’.
- The description becomes very concrete. We start thinking about small observable and detailed elements.
- The description becomes very generative. These are first tiny signs – but the precursors of all kinds of bigger things to come.
- A rich description can be generated by thinking about many tiny signs – each possibly insignificant on its own, but in unison amounting to an exciting new possibility.
- The description can become action-oriented – the tiny signs themselves lead to ideas for actions.
- And finally, the tiny signs can be used in the future as reference points to spot change starting to happen. Once you know what you’re looking for, it’s much easier to spot it.
I notice this sometimes when I work with people from other traditions. It seems like they are happy to discuss better futures at a general abstract level, but when get a little nervous when I suggest we ask about ‘first tiny signs’. Maybe talking in these terms raises the stakes a bit – the future starts to seem nearer, and we may actually have to deal with it starting to arrive! But surely that’s a good thing?