One of my passions is taking photos/stills photography. I’m always trying to take a better picture, with everything that entails. Four decades on and I’m still learning. In my view, photography is a bit of a metaphor for work and parenthood also. How so? Here are ten aspects, in no particular order.
Focus – the focus you want actually depends on the goal. In photography, it might be pin-sharp focus for detail, or soft focus to create mood or a more flattering image. So it is in the work setting. Too much simultaneous focus can create conflict (what to focus most on?) and increase the search time, as you scan between competing issues. The wrong level of focus is also a strategy problem for the organisation. In parenthood, the right focus is also pretty important. Focusing on the right things (situational awareness) can protect your kids from danger. It might also alert them to opportunity. Or help them resolve uncertainty.
Shutter speed – depending on the photographic goal, shutter speed is a key element in creating the appropriate image – freezing the action, blurring motion or synchronising shutter speed & flash in harmony to fill in the details. In the work place, it perhaps translates into how you juggle your time, rather than timing itself – allocating precious time to various issues and making judgments about the time-requirement needed to achieve a goal. In the World of parenthood, it’s perhaps about your attention span – how long you spend monitoring your kids actions and activities at any one time (too long can be as bad as too short).
Aperture setting – in photography, this controls depth of field and the amount of (light) input getting through to the sensor, for a given shutter speed. In the workplace, arguably it’s about the filters you employ to receive the quantity of information you need to do your job better. As in photography, too much input will impair the workplace result. Meanwhile, in parenthood, the filters screen in and screen out the inputs (demands) from your kids. Getting too many demands from too many kids at once, means having to control and adjust the ‘aperture setting’ (the expectation you have for how your kids should conduct themselves when they want something from you).
Lens resolution – in photography, the quality and configuration of the ground glass elements in the lens barrel controls the quality of the light travelling through the lens to the light sensor beyond. In the workplace and in parenthood, perhaps the equivalent is the knowledge and insight you possess ‘see the wood for the trees’ amongst the various inputs coming your way – seeing things as they really are and then passing on information in a consistent way to others.
Image composition – Wide angle, telephoto and macro perspectives all have their place in composing and framing the photographic image. In photography, you may have complete control over how the image is composed, or no control. Or something in between. The three perspectives of wide angle, telephoto and macro all have their place and their relevance. With care and imagination, you may be able to improve the control you have over image composition. In the workplace, the equivalent is perhaps influencing the quality of the inputs, even before you come to capture and analyse them. In parenthood, by setting expectations of behaviour and teaching your kids how to behave socially, the future composition will be somewhat controllable (in a good way).
Timing and presence – in photography, the difference in timing (the exact millisecond when you chose to take the picture) and presence (being in the right place at the right time) make all the difference to taking a great picture, believe me. In the workplace and in parenthood, something similar applies; giving positive feedback, reward, penalty, reacting to danger and reacting to opportunity. Improving your awareness of progress, patterns and environments will help you select where to be and when to be there.
Storage capacity – in photography, there’s no sense getting all the elements right, only to find you have no remaining camera storage capacity to hold the images you’ve just captured! In the workplace and in parenthood, it’s about having easy access to the relevant information, reliable storage, fast recall and strong memories -in my observation, organisations value institutional memory, as well as current skills and judgement.
Engagement with the subject(s) – great photographers know just how to coax great expressions from their subjects, by engaging effectively with the subject(s) of the picture. In the workplace or in school, great managers/teachers/customer service providers engage with their staff/pupils/customers on multiple levels. Great parents also know when more or less engagement is needed with their kids – when to let their kids self-learn and when to guide them.
Post-production – making great images involves post-production work (typically using Adobe Photoshop). When done well, post-production enhances the original image (usually very slightly, if a good image was made in the first place) like icing on a cake. In the workplace, perhaps the equivalent is in editing and re-drafting initial ideas, changing the emphasis, cropping out unnecessary information and producing compelling graphics. With parenthood, perhaps a powerful example is in being a first rate grandparent to your kids’ children.
Image posting – in photography, this is showcasing your work for others to enjoy. In the workplace, it’s about compiling your ideas and recommendations into a tangible and insightful resulting product/report/presentation. In parenthood, it’s how your kids behave in a public setting (with dignity and with consideration for others).
Note to self: learn photography at a faster rate, to help in other aspects of life…