Are you on the balcony or the dance floor?
As much as perspective can be a powerful asset in your decision making process, it can also be extremely detrimental in your ability to make a ‘good’ decision.
So strong is it’s influence over your judgement, I personally have a number of checks in place to ensure my heads in the right space at the right time.
It’s also why I believe collaboration is much better than working in isolation.
The balcony and the dance floor principle was first presented to me as I was just entering the workforce. The analogy used was when making decisions you need to know if you’re on the balcony or on the dance floor.
As I was right in the middle of the nightclub phase of my life, it stuck with me. And now I want to share it with you…
On the balcony
When your standing on the balcony of your favorite night spot, you’ve got wide view of the entire venue. You can see how all the moving parts of the club work together. How busy the bar is, if there queue for the toilets, where that scuffle just broke out and how far away security is. Sitting on the balcony over time, you’ll also to start to see patterns. Weakness in the way the night club functions.
On the dance floor
As you strut your stuff on the dance floor, your field of vision is limited, but the level of detail you can observe is much higher. You can see just how bad a dancer that guy next to you is, how cute the smile of the woman across from you is, and the face of the guy that spilt the drink that caused the scuffle that just broke out.
There’s no right or wrong when it comes to being on the dance floor or up in the balcony — there’s often time for both. It’s only when it comes to making a decision that perspective come into play.
Let’s say you’re carving it up on the dance floor and about to make a strategic decision, such as if it’s the right time to head to the bar. As you don’t have a wider perspective, you can’t appreciate the broader ramifications of your actions. You’re attempting to be strategic with a very narrow mind and purely gambling that the queue isn’t to long.
Alternatively if your way up there on the balcony, and are about to make a tactical call, like if you’ll ask that woman for her phone number. You lack the detail to make a well reasoned decision. You don’t have all the facts in front of you are making a dangerous impulsive call. Your tactics lack substance, and you’re going to have to include assumptions that come with immediate consequences.
I experienced this very principle just this weekend. It came without consequence but illustrates this in the real world.
For a long time we’ve been planning a camping trip away — a long weekend. We had three requirements. Somewhere we’d all never been before, that was no more than 5 hours away, with a nice isolated camp spot that we could sit around a fire.
Our first step was to decide a location. We drew a line through anywhere that would take us longer than 5 hours to get to, and anywhere within that radius we’d been before. Left with only a couple of options we settled on the otway national park.
Once the destination was decided we needed to find a specific spot to set up camp. We went back to the map, reviewed all the information available and settled on a camp ground that sounded exactly like what we wanted.
Everything was locked in.
When the weekend arrived, we rolled up to our campsite of choice only to find that is was jam packed and felt more like a caravan park. In a final blow, we discovered that we were not able to even have a fire!
Our 4 days away suddenly looked doomed.
The next morning the Park Ranger arrived to check up on us all. We swiftly headed towards him and asked him if he knew of anywhere more secluded that we could have a fire. He paused for minute and then replied “There’s this spot about 20 minutes away, it’s hard to find and not many people know about it. I can’t guarantee someone else is not there, but you can have a fire, it’s close to the beach…”
It sounded great. We piled in cars, headed to spot and there was immediate smiles all round. It was empty and perfect.
Our weekend had been saved.
The otways is a beautiful place, a great destination for a trip. We made a smart strategic decision to head there. But when it came to the tactical question of where to actually set up camp, from our balcony 4 hours away, we made a horrible call. It was only our wonderful Park Ranger, who’s dance floor is the otways, that had the level of detailed knowledge to fix our tactical problems.
We all make decisions every day. Some tactical, some more strategic. It only takes a second to ask yourself two questions. What sort of decision is this, and am I on the dance floor or on the balcony.
That moment of pause will ensure you’re making smarter calls no matter what the occasion.
… and I’m off to try that new dance move. See you all next time.