3 min read

📰 🍄🐚 Organizational Mycology – April 12, 2023

This week, we’re building on what we’ve learned through our previous workshops on visual empathy and playing with a different idea: Historical Empathy.

📢 Intro

This month’s Oblique Thinking Hour is TODAY! Check out the links below for details and sign-up info.

This week, we’re building on what we’ve learned through our previous workshops on visual empathy and playing with a different idea: Historical Empathy. Thinking historically–in particular, deeply imagining the sensory experiences of living in places and societies of the past–can give us context and ways to think about the problems of today.

👀 Something that caught our eye

During our Oblique Thinking Hour last month, Jonah selected the above picture as a prompting photo. We used the image in a workshop around building empathy through seeing things the way others see them. We shared a photo with no prompt, other than to “write what you see” in the image.

Most attendees had not seen this scene before and their minds were instantly active, asking "Where is this (Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan)?" Others were curious about who lived there. Was it a prison? A village? What was life like at this site? Some focused on the uniformity of color, or the pits (kivas), or the ladders. What we see, how we see it, and how we share our perspectives with each other can help us connect and build capable teams.

What do you see in the above photo?

This act of extending curiosity, exploring the unknown, digging into what life may have been like in a different era is a valuable way of building a historical context for today’s challenges and opportunities. What are some ways that you have found yourself thinking of ancient societies, life before today, even the life of your own childhood? It could be thousands of years before you were born, or a mere decade before you were alive, or a reimagining of your embracing of 80s fashion in the 80s themselves. What would it have been like to walk Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. in 1900, or to wander around the outside of the Roman Colosseum while a gladiator event took place? What did it smell like? Sound like? Feel like? What would a concert with Nina Simone, Jim Morrison or Mozart sound like? How would it have been different before they achieved notoriety? What about after? What would you have worn? Would you sit? Stand? Dance? Would you have a good view of the performance? Does that even matter? What did Aotearoa (New Zealand) sound like as humans approached for the very first time, the cacophony of birds, flighted and flightless, filling every niche and with no natural predators? How might it sound different from now?

In this information-rich era, we can all build this kind of historical empathy, and ground our experiences today in a bit of historical context. Consider short videos about life in Rome to longer texts, or video of a 3D reconstruction of the HMS Victory, or studies of what it might have smelled like to walk the streets of Paris or London in the 19th century: There are an incredible number of resources you can draw upon to build some historical empathy that helps you better understand yourself, others, and today. What does building this empathy do for us as citizens, colleagues, friends and family members? How does empathy building shift and change us?

What is something you’ve recently read, saw, experienced that made you wonder how it came to be like that? What would you want to know about a friend, colleague or client / customer by looking at that same thing together?

The above photo is of the Hill Palace at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, USA

Engage with us

In our next Oblique Thinking Hour, TODAY, we'll demonstrate a collaborative problem solving technique that enables a group of any size to split into small groups, discuss shared capabilities and challenges, and feed their ideas into the larger group for discussion and synthesis. We'll be talking about general challenges and problems that anyone could relate to, but this technique can be used in any context. Come along, meet some people and have fun exploring with us!

In May we’ll be collaboratively creating a futures card deck, similar to the deck used in our Futures Thinking OTH

Contact us at [email protected]