Understanding your BIOS

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Last week, I mused about Change, and how it really happens.

This week I’d like to use a computing analogy. Like all analogies, it’s not perfect – but it’s helped me to understand the different levels of what we are doing with groups or individuals when we work with them.



The context could be training, facilitation or coaching. I am grateful to Michael Neill for helping me to get clarity on this.

So, when we’re working with people, we are doing one (or more) of these things:

Giving information

Examples: the new appraisal system; our policy on compliance, or health and safety, or equality and diversity; the company history; sharing data about sales or customer service, the business vision, etc.

Developing skills

Examples: Traditionally, this is the world of “how-to”: how to be a better leader or salesperson; how to communicate better; how to give bad news without losing rapport; how to use a fire-extinguisher; how to wash your hands properly, etc.

Facilitating problem solving, the creation of new possibilities

Examples: working with groups on improving a process; reducing error rates; new product development and innovation, etc.

A lot of the time we’re doing 2 or 3 of the above simultaneously. And, often, we’re doing the first two in service of the third – there’s something that needs to be improved, fixed or made better.

There’s a fourth thing we can do though – and the pay-offs are nearly always disproportionately positive.

We can facilitate understanding of the fundamental human experience and how this works. This is like ‘sharpening the saw’ so that the ‘work’ becomes much easier, faster and more enjoyable.

“If I have ten hours with a team, I’ve learned that it’s more efficient to spend the first nine hours helping people to see what’s really going on. When they do, they know how to use the equipment better” Michael Neill

The ‘equipment’, of course, is them. How they think, how they create their experience, how much of their time they spend in clarity, so that they have full access to their own resources.

So, here’s the computing analogy. We can facilitate understanding at different levels:

Level 1: Hardware

This would be understanding the ‘kit’ itself – as a doctor or a neuroscientist might.

Level 2: Software

Understanding the programmes we’re running. This is what NLP and similar approaches focus on. Our habits and patterns. Change the programme, and you can change the output. (Remember GIGO? Garbage In, Garbage Out)

Level 3: Operating System

There are only a few of these – PC, Mac, Linux. At the human level, this might be analogous to our global belief systems, and is where most of the ‘deep work’ might take place in therapeutic or change work.

Level 4: Built in Operating System (BIOS)

These are the things that are the same for all humans – regardless of culture, intelligence or personality. It’s what is always going on for everyone, all the time. This is the level that my work mostly focuses on these days. It seems that, the better we understand the BIOS, the more in-tune with it we operate – and the better we do.

The BIOS is the three principles of Mind, Consciousness and Thought.

And to extend the computing metaphor further…

One of the most important things about our BIOS is that we can go ‘online’ at any moment and access a wealth of fresh, new thinking, insights, and ideas. Turns out our minds can act like a browser, as well as like a hard drive.

If we don’t know this, it makes perfect sense to be constantly looking for the next tool, strategy or technique from the outside, or the latest piece of advice from experts.

Nothing wrong with this when it’s appropriate. In fact, one of the ways my wisdom sometimes speaks to me is to say “Go and ask XYZ, because they know all about that”.

However, once we do know it, everything changes.

We can access the infinite Web of Wisdom. (Ooh, maybe I should copyright that?)

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