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Seeing The Forest For The Trees, Air Force Analogy
25 Dec 2017

Seeing The Forest For The Trees, An Air Force Perspective

“He isn’t seeing the forest for the trees!” That means he’s so wrapped up in the details that he doesn’t see the big picture. “Pie in the sky,” says the opposite. She’s so wrapped up in the big picture that she doesn’t see the details. Both cause failure. Here, an air force perspective puts both sayings in their place.

Climbing And Diving In The Air Force

Many ways exist to assess aircraft. Two important ones to the air force are climbing and diving speed. They are especially critical in fighter planes. Simply, climbing speed is how fast a plane can climb without stalling. Diving speed is how fast it can dive without crashing.

Thus, extending this analogy, it’s not just a question of seeing the forest for the trees or the trees for the forest. It’s also one of how fast and how well one can back and forth between both.

Even though one can be good at seeing the forest for the trees, he still has to be able to get through the trees.

The use of planes in the U.S. Air Force gives insights into how seeing the forest for the trees relates to assessing talent for the digital workplace.

A Seeing The Forest For The Trees Frame Of Mind

People’s frame of mind affects their decisions. This goes beyond good and bad moods. Anyone who has had to suddenly deal with family problems while at work can attest. We commonly call it “shifting gears.” It’s a form of anchoring. It happens with all kinds of topics including forests and trees.

Yes, some are better at seeing the forest. Some better at the trees. The work between architect and engineer or software architect and software developer are examples. Still, fighter planes exist among us. They climb and dive between both very well, very fast.

Thus, a forest frame of mind is quite different from a detail one. Artificial intelligence for instance works by seeing trends among data. In other words, it looks at trees. From them it not only determines whether they form a forest. It also seeks the nature of that forest such as rainforest, deciduous, coniferous or boreal. Only the trees and other details can say.

Key Takeaway From The Air Force

Ironically, the air force has planes that only fly high. It also has ones that only fly low. They have ones too that do well at each level in between. Why then do they need fighters, planes that climb and dive through all levels?

The classic modern workplace is very specialized. There are those who create the vision. There are those who crunch the details. Others fill in the planning levels in between. Who are the fighters though? Who are the multi-talented ones who climb and dive well and fast through all levels?

What does the air force know about seeing the forest for the trees that the workplace doesn’t?

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