The ability to see more is always an advantage. 

Hence telescopes and microscopes, x-rays and satellites and so on – a massive amount of our energy goes into seeing more of the world.

But our ability to perceive the world isn’t just limited to physical sensing.

No matter how many details I perceive, they’re no use to me unless I can understand them.

This of course is where my mind is the limiting factor on my ability to perceive the world. So we all go to school to hopefully learn things that’ll help us understand the world.

(Or at least give us the tools to widen our perception in the future – like reading and mathematics).

This is great, because now I don’t have to be smart enough to work out everything by myself – if I want to calculate the perimeter of a circle I can do that because a teacher told me how.

(Often repeatedly)

But there’s a third kind of limitation on perception – or understanding – though.

Luckily, at Digital Village’s March Meetup, the good people at This Thing of Ours introduced us to a way of addressing that limitation.


But before we get into what that is – why make a big deal about perception anyway?

This is how I think about perception: if I were alive 50,000 years ago, what would improved perception mean to me?

  • Physical senses: they’d allow me to see, hear or smell food (and anything that wanted to eat me)
  • Understanding: it’d allow me to avoid dangerous things to eat, or to know how to prepare them properly

(And hey, if this COVID thing goes on long enough, this might become relevant again!!)

But what about now?

Our society is full of signals: we get them from the news, from talking to people, social media, and our own observations too.

But they amount to the same thing that the ‘me’ from 50,000 years ago cared about: some of these signals represent opportunities, and some of them are threats.

So it’s good to be able to see more, and understand more of what we see.

So getting back to that limitation I mentioned earlier.

This comes back to the natural frame we use to understand the world.

Everyone has their own, unique way of evaluating, and understanding the world:

  • Sometimes it’s in terms of understanding who’s winning, and who’s losing.
  • Or it may be a matter of understanding what people are afraid of, and what they’re greedy for.
  • Or seeing the systems that people operate in, and how those systems affect peoples behaviour.

Whatever your natural way of understanding the world is, wouldn’t it be good to step into someone else’s shoes and see the world the way they see it?

So what happened in our March Meetup is that Phil, Rachel and Chris from This Thing of Ours introduced us to a technique for doing exactly this.



The technique comes from Integral Theory and is a very straight-forward way of understanding any kind of situation the world throws up.

It’s pretty simple. I won’t go into to a lot of detail (The This Thing of Ours gang are the subject matter experts for that) but basically we create something that looks like this

So we end up with these four sections: 

  • Behaviour 
  • Systems
  • Culture
  • Mindset

And the amazing thing is, there’s not a single human endeavour that can’t be completely described by those four categories.

Let’s imagine we’re targeting a new customer, and we wanted to use this system to understand our customer better.

We’d go through each of those four sections one at a time – Behaviour, Systems, Culture and Mindset – and write down everything we could think about that particular aspect of the customer.

If I do this, what it forces me to do is step outside my normal habits of thinking and consider the world from new perspectives, and to do it systematically.

If I were doing this to understand a new customer, I’d end up with a quadrant covered in notes which I could then analyse for themes that cut across each quadrant and can become the source of powerful insights.

If you’d like to know more about analysing your own organisation, customers or anything else using the quadrant model, contact This Thing of Ours.

To learn more useful techniques for analysing and understanding the world of business, technology and people, be sure to come to Digital Village’s next Meetup!

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