Big Picture in Small Things!

We are constantly reminded or chided for not seeing the ‘big picture’ or not seeing things ‘holistically’ or ‘wholistically’ (as Ackoff used to say). And many think it to be the big problem with most of us for which the big, nagging, ‘wicked’ problems don’t seem to vanish.

But would that be the way forward?

Md. Yunush, the founder of Grameen Bank has something remarkable to share on seeing the ‘big picture’.

He said that as an economist he always saw the big picture of everything. He could see how things would change. And how things fitted into one another. And if something was done how that something would affect the big picture. But after that ‘big picture’ seeing and thinking he could not do anything worthwhile or bring about any significant change anywhere or solve any ‘wicked’ problem.

Till one day he saw the misery and pain of 40 families ravaged by a cruel flood. And he chose to see more closely at the incident and the condition of the affected families. He not only saw more closely but he saw more intently and clearly till he saw the ‘big picture’ in the seemingly small thing. 

He saw that if he could only loan out $27 the fate of these 40 families would change for good. And he did that. And then he did some more for some more families. And he again did it for some other families. Soon it became a movement that culminated into the concept of the Grameen Bank that significantly changed the lives of many, solved a ‘wicked’ problem of abject poverty, made history and needless to say won him the Nobel.

To me this is what “seeing the big picture” is all about. Seeing something small very closely with clear intention, intently feeling it and thinking of the ‘big picture’ of how to make sense of it and birth the emergent ideas into reality.

It is seeing the ‘big picture’ in small things that matters and not the ‘big picture’ of how large things connect. And from that ‘big picture’ of ‘small things’ other smaller details emerge spontaneously to breathe life into an emergent reality.

This is the stuff of problem solvers, designers, design thinkers, system thinkers, businessmen, strategists and most importantly entrepreneurs — from small to big and then back to small again.


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