Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Helicopter Vision Sri Lankan Style

In business there's a concept, phenomenon, I don't know what it would be classed as, but it's called Helicopter Vision.

Its application is in how a manager approaches a situation, how the person views and responds to it. The concept involves acting as if you're in a helicopter, not in a being sick and all excited way, more to be able to move up and down and look at the same scene.

If you're in a helicopter on the ground you see a much closer view, but in great detail. As the height increases your view becomes broader and also less detailed. You see a much bigger picture, you can put more things in perspective, perhaps knowing that behind that mountain lies a river, which you wouldn't see from a lower level. But, at the lower level you might see paths, trees and detail on the mountainside that's not visible when you elevate.

You're intelligent, you get where I'm going with this don't you? You realise that what I'm saying is that from different heights the same person can look at the same landscape and see different things.

The application of this in business is to be able to use it when you deal with situations as they crop up. To be able to go up or down in your virtual helicopter, looking at the same scenario but with differing levels of detail and overall awareness. It's a skill that I continually try to work on and I claim no level of competence in it, only in my knowledge of it.

Recently I've been thinking a lot about helicopter vision and its relevance to Sri Lanka and the conflict, how it's viewed from all around the world, Lanka included. I've found it fascinating to watch, read and hear the reactions of such a variety of people from a variety of places.

Many people in Sri Lanka have taken a ground level view of things, getting directly involved in organisations such as Action and Care Trust to get much needed aid and help to the IDPs. Some are adopting a "fuck the rest of the world" attitude and taking a view that other countries and international organisations should stop the criticisms, the investigations and the analyses and put the effort into helping Sri Lanka and her people to deal with the immediate and very pressing needs of the IDPs.

As we travel further away from Serendib it's evident that more people are looking at a broader picture. This isn't right, nor is it wrong. These people are looking at things like international relations, the possibility of war crimes having been committed on both sides and the original issues faced by the Tamil population that caused the LTTE to form in the first place. The broader picture exists, it shouldn't be ignored, sometimes one has to climb up in the helicopter to see it.

I think a certain amount of bad feeling arises when people, often like me, who are physically detached from things, start to talk about a bigger picture when we're not at ground level and we're not involved in helping the people who really need help right now.

The thing about this helicopter vision stuff, at least in business, is that no level is wrong. It's all about being able to see the different views and make decisions and take actions based on as many of them as possible, not about hovering in your helicopter at one altitude and basing every decision and every action on what you see from there.

One of the things that makes me feel uncomfortable is the prospect of Sri Lanka becoming an international outcast, something I see as distinctly possible. It's all well and good for so many of us to accuse the BBC, the Red Cross, David Milliband, the UN, CNN, the Norwegians and maybe even Switzerland and Father Christmas of being biased and against us but, at some point, if not already, it's going to be Sri Lanka against the rest of the world.

In the longer term is this what we want?


Anonymous said...

the west is redundant RD, a new world order arises in China. After Obama's done bankrupting America China will become the world's number 1 superpower. And Sri Lanka will be one of her closest allies!

We don't say fuck the world, we say that Europe and America are redundant, we aren't a colony anymore!

ViceUnVersa said...

Article by Jeremy Page in the Times.

Wee worrying, especially when our PR machine sputters along sedately.

Almost sent copy to HC but figured they must have read it already?!?

Parthiv said...

oh, well when it happens those of us who have the helicopter vision can continue to analyse it and write about it.
So there is a lot more material for blog posts coming up.

People who live out of Sri Lanka can do quite a lot at this critical juncture.

Ooops, apologies about talking about action on this blog, I simply forgot, my mistake entirely, this is one of those "words only " or in old english "lip service" blogs.

Yes, yes , you were saying of the helicopter vision. very interesting concept. The pity is that in order to do something one must get off the helicopter.

Diffrent percepective are excellant but any country that has been in a war in multiple fronts do not survive on people who provide "interesting" percepectives alone.

Kalusudda said...

Hi, I too traveled the same road and started finding more facts and I am utterly confused.
When the same human rights protectors spoke about possible actions against US, US pulled out of the commission, now it has changed the name US is back in. It is simply high level politics that we see everyday. I am disgusted with the whole procedures.
While we all vote and discuss, there are a bunch of kids suffering. I don't get it.
Sri Lanka against the whole world? No. There are opportunists everywhere, like Miliband, looking to make it big in the world. They will side with SL just to be opposite to Western block. In the end they will compromise and decide to help and by that time few more kids would be dead, which could have easily been saved.
So I am staying closer to the ground and help people Like ACT Lanka At least they will try to heal the physical wounds.
Helicopter Vision? We have satellite View now! We just move the focus. :)

Darwin said...

The danger with being up on the helicopter is that all you do is see the bigger picture and then critique the ground level folk. Yes, the criticisms are sometimes necessary, essential even, but looking at the bigger of the bigger pictures(so to take your example, a geostationary satellite that hovers above the helicopter perhaps?!), I have to wonder how much of a change the man up on the helicopter can contribute towards something positive. It might seem cliche but I like the Ghandian principle of 'be the change that you want to see in the world'. I really don't see how a perpetual helicopter-sitter who never gets off the helicopter can ever achieve that.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Anon- Maybe!

DD - I'm sure they've read it too.

Darwin - I think the danger you describe comes more from staying at one level in the helicopter, not so much from being in it.

The helicopter analogy may be stretched when we talk about getting off the thing. I think the theory is that it allows for flexibility in how people can view things, not so much a reflection of lack of action.

You're right about the danger of staying high up, but also the danger can apply if one stays at ground level.

Electra said...

RD, as usual beautifully put.

I agree that we need a diversity of viewpoints and opinions, coloured by different experiences, of course. Those who have 'suffered' seem to feel as though those who haven't have no right to address this subject at all. Lately, I've been thinking a lot about this and even said something like this in response to a comment on my blog yesterday. Not all who have not suffered are indifferent. The people who have felt the pain feel as though those of us who haven't felt the pain aren't qualified. But if it was only the people who had felt the pain speaking, we'd only be hearing the story from one angle. I think it's important that there are those of us who can inform ourselves and comment on it objectively, without having our views totally coloured by personal experience. Of course, it's as important to get the stories and opinions of those who HAVE been directly affected. After all, they are the ones who have paid the price for the victory that we can all be so happy about. But that plurality is important. It's that common notion that 'since they haven't suffered, they cannot possibly care that much' that we need to dispel. I DO care. I care very much.

I agree that we need to approach this "international community" business more diplomatically. It kind of scares me that our greatest international ally right now is China. The authoritarian approach of the MR regime for defeating the LTTE is something that China can relate to. But the very fact that their ideas are similar to ours is what's wrong. Who's ever going to keep us in check? That's the whole point in having friends, right. You're all different and therefore strike a perfect balance. If you're all the same and share the same ideas, then there will never be anyone to point out better ways of doing things.

I don't care much for the US, but Europe I think can be important and useful to have on our side. I don't know. Once again, only my humble opinion.

Bimal said...

Agree with Electra. There should be a way to keep everyone in check. Yin-Yang y'know. China and India might provide that to us in many ways. But I am somewhat uncomfortable in the completely discounting the west. They are not used to being ignored.