Tunneling occurs when we are (or at least feel we are) overwhelmed. When folks get slammed with problems, they often enter the tunnel, adopting tunnel vision, narrowing their focus to just what is directly in front of them. There’s no time set aside for Quad 2 (important but not urgent); strategic prioritization quickly falls by the wayside.
When we are in the tunnel, we don’t engage in systems thinking, we just react. We are so busy “solving” problems, we set aside no time to prevent problems. Yet the day when all urgent things are done rarely, if ever, comes. The momentum, the attention blindness of the tunnel often keeps us from seeing that not all urgent things have the same importance, indeed some are not that important at all or are someone else’s priority and not always our responsibility and some non-urgent tasks are of higher priority and greater importance.
Escaping the tunnel lies in developing ability to step outside ourselves, to question our reactive responses, to create a thinking space between stimulus and response.
It’s so much easier—and more natural—to stay in the tunnel and keep digging ahead. It’s a terrible trap: If you can’t systematically solve problems, it dooms you to stay in an endless cycle of reaction. Tunneling begets more tunneling. Tunneling is not only self-perpetuating, it can even be emotionally rewarding. Saving the day feels awfully good, and heroism is addictive but we should be wary of this cycle of behavior. The need for heroism is usually evidence of systems failure.” – Dan Heath, Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen
As always, I share what I most want and need to learn. – Nathan S. Collier