There are days when you drive the same highway you always take, and suddenly the traffic is all snarled up and you are stuck in the middle of it. As you inch along bumper-to-bumper, it is very difficult to determine the cause of the congestion, or to see alternatives to get out of the traffic jam. Sometimes, once you are through the worst of it, you are still no wiser about the cause: there are no broken-down cars, no accidents and no obvious obstacles on the road.
On the other hand, if you were in a helicopter, you would have a different perspective on the traffic. It might be obvious where the hold-up is, what its cause is, and also what effect this may have on alternative routes. This change in perspective – or seeing the bigger picture – gives you an advantage over the person in the traffic: you would also be able to advise the person on the road about the best options such as which lanes to use, whether to exit the highway, and where to do so in order to avoid the most severe congestion.
At Lodox’s 2015 year-end function the company arranged a fun event which incorporated a subtle team-building exercise which was highly enjoyable, creative and instructive, although the latter was perhaps not necessarily intended. The entire team went to artjamming, a painting studio where everybody was issued with a canvas and paints. However, instead of everybody trying their hand at a self-selected project, they were issued with a very small rectangular piece of paper in the same proportions as the canvas. Each piece of paper had printed on it geometric shapes: vertical and/or horizontal lines and rectangles of different sizes in different colours. Each person’s small image was uniquely numbered and formed part of a larger image. Think of the pieces as elements in a larger mosaic. As it turned out, the final image was a modification of a Piet Mondrian (1872 – 1944) image.
The task was for everybody to paint their image in full size on the canvas. The challenge, however, was that each piece had to fit with the surrounding four pieces – above, below, left and right – to be incorporated in the overall image. In other words, the lines and rectangles had to match up on all the pieces, when put together, to make up the complete image.
As a consequence, everybody had to consult with the people who had the surrounding pieces, get together and sketch the outlines so that things lined up correctly. And herein lay the brilliance of the project: this encouraged co-operation, consultation and consensus on how the parts would make up the whole. Therefore, it was not possible to work in isolation because one misfit would affect all the other parts to varying degrees.
Once all the outlines had been sketched on each canvas it was time for each person to bring out the cubist painter in themselves, experimenting with brush size, technique, and varying degrees of artistic expression. The final product was a stylised, Mondrian-esque mosaic of the world map, with Lodox installations highlighted in red. However, until such time as the whole image was assembled, nobody knew what each individual part represented or what the bigger picture was.
Perhaps that’s the message we can take home: often, we labour along and don’t see the bigger picture. We don’t necessarily understand where our part fits into the whole, what our contributions add to the overall functioning of the company. Yet, if we trust in the bigger vision, and if we all work together, co-operating, sharing and consulting with one another towards a common goal, great things can be achieved where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.