Magpie or eagle? Which approach will serve you best?

Kieran and I were discussing an issue he was having with his team. As we talked, he was writing on a sticky note each element of the problem as he saw it and was sticking them to the wall. We’d been going for about twenty minutes and the wall was filling up. Kieran was grinding to a halt.

‘What stands out to you from all these notes here, Kieran?’ I asked.

‘This one,’ he reached out for a note. ‘Or maybe this one? No, that one … actually this one is pretty relevant too.’ And so it went on. Pretty soon, Kieran had selected nearly every note he’d written.

‘That’s an impressive collection there!’ I commented. Kieran laughed, ‘I’m like a magpie – I see one area I think I need to concentrate on and then I notice another, and then another one catches my eye. I can’t possibly deal with all these points. Can we work on prioritising them?’

‘How about if we took more of an eagle’s approach to the issue? Found the prey we want to tackle and zoom in on that?’ I asked.

That’s what we did. We went back through his sticky notes and Kieran selected his ‘prey’ – the one element he felt was key to the matter and worthy of all of his attention.

Whilst it may not be true that magpies are attracted by shiny things, most of us are aware of the concept of a magpie collecting together all sorts of random objects whilst we see an eagle as being more singular in its approach. There are times when a magpie approach might work – generating ideas for a product launch, gathering concepts for refurbishment of a building, say: zooming in on just one idea isn’t appropriate here. Other times, only that keenly focussed, single track, eagle approach will do.

Today’s pebble for you to ponder: Think of an issue you’re working on at the moment – what’s the most useful approach for you to take? Do you need to think like a magpie or like an eagle? 


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, why not email me to see how we could work together?

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