How I see it …. making assumptions

Over the last week or so, I have been unwell with very little voice. As a result, I have engaged less in conversation and responses have been more deliberate and reflective. What has become apparent is that others seem quick to judge and assume what I am thinking or feeling when I converse less. This, in turn, has led me to consider my usual mode of operation.

Usually, I am a person who thinks fast, in a detailed manner, and on multiple tangents simultaneously jumping from one idea to another in a solution focussed way. I analyse responses fast, and as a consequence, often find myself changing my opinion mid-sentence and based on the ongoing discussion. I find this a very effective way of clarifying my own decisions and thoughts in the moment. However, this relies on others being able to follow, interpret and understand my thought processes.

The assumption I traditionally made is that others can follow my tangents and thoughts. However, a colleague reminded me today that not everyone could follow my thinking, which led me to consider the impact that my way of being has on those around me.

When making important decisions, I choose to discuss my thought processes with a person that I trust. Doing this assists me to clarify my thoughts and stops me from rushing into any decision. I highly value this debate and usually use it to augment the choice I ultimately make.

Today, after my colleague suggested others can not always keep up with my thinking, I began to wonder how others interpreted my thought processes and discussion. For example, the need to discuss decisions could be, as intended, looking to clarify thoughts; however, it could also be interpreted as being unsure or not confident.

What this made me remember is just how much humans make assumptions about others without fully understanding the context. Not all assumptions are negative; to the contrary, our assumptions can also have a positive effect. The critical point here is not to stop our assumptions and judgements, but to consider how we evaluate and process these to interact with the world around us.

How I see it … Being human

This week has been challenging, but some valuable lessons have emerged. For example, when to push back, when to follow and when to be ”human”.

After years of working as an emergency nurse and in a pre-hospital emergency setting, I have found that responding in the moment during unexpected and stressful situations has become automatic. In these situations I naturally gravitate to take a leadership role, I think logically, respond in a manner that is calm and allows problem-solving, involves directing others and managing complex situations. I feel comfortable and confident operating in this environment and am sure of decisions I make at the time.

Along with this, the nature of being a nurse involves, caring, communication, advocating while managing complex situations all of which have all become automatic for me and will remain with me throughout any career or life changes that I make.

In academia curiosity is assumed and decision making appears to be less intertwined with a way of being as it is in nursing. For example, in academia there is time to consider, research and react while nursing requires continuing adaptation and problem solving with the situation at hand. This week I have wondered if adaptability, problem solving. trust, confidence and values others have for nurses in healthcare is actually valued in the academic environment?

Analyzing my decisions this week has spurred me to reflect on the coexistence of my role as a researcher, educator and nurse. Furthermore, I wonder whether those who are not nurses understand and trust the values, morals and ethical stance of nurses in the same way as other nurses do?

To me being a nurse is a lifelong undertaking, not a mode of operation I can switch on and off depending on the need or the job at hand. This week, being a nurse and responding in a calm, logical and emergency nurse like manner in academia was important and influenced outcomes in a way I believe was positive. However, in an academic environment I am not 100% sure that this was the “right” reaction.

While I consider myself a competent and confident academic, the interesting part is that, after working in academia for the best part of a decade, my default mode of operation is still thinking and reacting to situations as a nurse first and academic second. However, I do not believe that this approach is necessarily “wrong” and finding a way for these to comfortably exist is key.

I believe there is room for a mixture of roles (researcher, nurse and educator) with the attributes of all roles valued equally yet mutual understanding and valuing of the unique attributes of each is required.

How I see it … being organised

Being independent was something I used to take for granted.

Over a year ago, I decided to stop driving as my visual acuity was variable and was consistently below the driving threshold. Even though health professionals stated that they were still happy for me to drive as I was ”sensible”, ”knew my limits” and had ”already stopped driving at night” my self-awareness, values, morals and knowledge of the potential consequences to myself and others led me not to drive.

At first, using public transport was a novelty, with journeys taking longer, I was enjoying the change of pace and found that this enforced downtime which relieved stress.

Lately, I have been becoming more and more frustrated with the amount of time or money it takes me to get places and complete everyday tasks like the grocery shopping, pick up a prescription or as discussed in an earlier blog post go to Yoga. A simple trip to the doctor when feeling unwell (leaving work at 1630 hrs) means a very long night. Driving I would have been home at 1800 at the latest. Using public transport, this meant two busses to the doctor. As the pharmacy was closed when I had finished at the doctor, a further two busses were needed to get to the after that hours pharmacy and an Uber home from there. I arrived home at 2055 hrs.

What this shows is a barrier to being spontaneous and the need for planning to achieve many tasks that I used to be able to do without any forethought. The need for my independence to be “enabled” by external people or services has been difficult for me as my idea of independence is also being self-sufficient. The switch from complete self-sufficiency to reliance on external entities has felt like a loss or defeat at times, with a niggling feeling of being a burden to others. While one could argue this was negative self chatter the barrier itself exists. What this means is that, until self-driving cars or teleportation become a reality complete self-sufficiency is impossible for me.

What I plan to reduce is the self chatter, thoughts of diminished self-worth related to loss of independence. Furthermore working on becoming more organised with planning as second nature may decrease the stress related to transportation.

How I see it … innovation

I have had several conversations lately and given several presentations on innovation in either education, health, nursing or technology and am getting a name for myself as an “innovator” and someone to ask about how to innovate.

 In designing my presentations and associated learning opportunities, I have explored my thoughts, definitions, challenges and triumphs through innovation.

For the record, before I continue this reflection, I consider myself an innovator, disruptor and often unconventional leader.

Often people see innovation as working with cutting edge technology, and in some ways, this is what we see in the media and society portray as innovation. Along with this the innovators are often reported as being visionary, someone who is dynamic and leads others to success, while working at the forefront of the modern world, inventing and designing novel solutions.  I believe there is much more to innovation than this.  With the characteristics listed above in mind, I question where innovation is learned or begins, along with the constant need for novel contributions.  What we hear about are established innovators.  However, what I want to promote is the value of the journey in innovation.

For example, innovation can be:

  • being curious and questioning the status quo
  • a desire and striving for a better solution
  • thinking about something in a different way
  • trying something new or failing at something new and learning from this regardless of the outcome

When I look at the four examples above, my initial thoughts are, “isn’t this learning?”, and “isn’t this what most of us do every day?”  The logical response after these questions is “well, aren’t we all innovators then?”

I would argue, yes we are all innovators in certain contexts. One of the most important characteristics of an innovator is curiosity and a willingness to challenge their own and others views.  If I look back at my journey of innovation, I can honestly say that I was not always an innovator, in the sense that the media portrays innovation.  I was willing to learn and continually curious. However, it was not until I had become comfortable in my ability, knowledge and skills that challenging myself became a part of my being.

The ability to challenge and change your perspective and direction goes hand in hand with showing vulnerability.  Which, in my case, ultimately progressed to the knowledge and confidence to challenge others, and eventually society.

Lately, a new term seems to be commonly associated with innovation; this is disruption.  I particularly like this term, as it describes the thinking associated with innovation well.  For example, innovators often do not look for the one “right answer” but look toward many different possibilities and challenge society along the way.  In my opinion, the word disruption now has a positive meaning, rather than being eternally negative. 

The term disruptor and at times innovator can seem lonely as they refer to a single person.  Furthermore, the media often use these terms when describing a single entity, thus isolating that entity.  I began to fully realise this at a time in my career when innovation was viewed by those around me as not conforming, or rule-breaking and not required.  In my experience, successful innovation not only depends on the passion and drive of the innovator but their ability to recognise the value of those who support that team.  It was this realisation that led me to consider myself an unconventional leader and innovator.

To summarise, recognising and valuing innovative traits such as curiosity, challenging our own beliefs and disruption are a part of the journey toward innovation and are key in advancing society. I believe that people who are innovators may not always manifest the visionary, dynamic characteristics that society or the media often portray them as holding.  Furthermore, the journey toward becoming an innovator yields many lessons such as the importance of honesty, tenacity, passion and teamwork.