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Other Hand Awareness: A simple approach to modern problems

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Akila Mohabir, a 6th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels laboratory technician, pours excess fuel in a fuel storage tank at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., March 14, 2019.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Akila Mohabir, a 6th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels laboratory technician, pours excess fuel in a fuel storage tank at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., March 14, 2019. In 2019, the 6th LRS petroleum, oil and lubricant flight has moved 7.1 million gallons of fuel over 2,291 aircraft servicing runs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Scott Warner)

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

You are at work, seemingly on autopilot as you proceed through another task that you have mastered. Arguably, one might say you could do this with your eyes closed.

As mid-morning approaches and lunch is within sight, your eyes glaze over as your mind runs through a mental map of all the local restaurants. Your fingers dance across the keyboard, tapping in a rhythm similar to a summer shower with rain drops beating steadily against the pavement. Before you consciously register you’ve been typing the last 15 minutes, the task is complete. Without a second glance, the file is saved and sent to your boss while you grab your keys on a rush out the door.

The familiarity you reach in order to complete a task in this state of mind is what many strive for. Each person looks to learn any task with the goal in mind of being efficient in completion. When we become exceptionally proficient at a task, what happens to growth? What happens to the progress and innovation? While the solution to both of these questions isn’t always simple, our awareness goes a long way toward how we get to an answer.

Professional athletes, world class musicians and star chefs all have one thing in common with everyone in the world—the opportunity to have task awareness. Each of these examples represents individuals who have mastered their craft but are unceasing in pursuit of growth.

The pursuit of improvement through awareness is what separates the good from the great. Eckhart Tolle said, “Awareness is the greatest agent for change.” The average person won’t spend thousands of hours perfecting a skill at work, so how do we get there? This is where other hand awareness originates.

Think about common tasks we do each day where you are proficient in completion. Odds are a few common items probably come to mind. Brushing our teeth, writing a sentence and texting are great examples. Now think about performing them with your non-dominant hand. Unless you are ambidextrous, or about one percent of the world population, your completion time was likely much slower. What seemed flawless under normal circumstances now feels faulty and rigid.

The comfort level in performance is diminished while simultaneously increasing your level of effort. And while there is no evidence inefficiencies will be found in cleaning your molars, writing in cursive or choosing the right emoji, the mental process map you cycled through in this heightened state is the foundation for identifying those gaps.

These basic tasks are great barometers for the initial understanding of how we can apply this other hand awareness concept to our work. The process application is simple and doesn’t change much from how you already complete a job.

If we think about how we normally complete a job, it revolves around two steps: identify the job and complete the job. The big adjustment during application is the change your level of awareness in the effort. This cognizance is relatively simple, but is more complex than just recognizing steps.

As you advance through each step it is important you are noting any subtle differences or collecting questions that are sparked during your attentive state. You might notice simple items such as particular assets are kept in a location that slows the process or work builds up in a particular work center during the off shifts. You may realize that technical guidance is hampering capabilities or a task might be obsolete altogether. This conscious advancement creates momentum for growth. When we apply other hand awareness our task cycle is now comprised of the following steps: identify your task, elevate your awareness and complete the process.

With the understanding of how to apply it to our tasks, what exactly is other hand awareness? It is the observant fulfillment of a job. It is a spotlight on a task, an amplifier of inefficiencies and a platform for reinvention. It is deliberate and equally supports change when needed. Simply put, other hand awareness is being attentive to what you’re doing. This concept is not about a one size fits all approach to improvement.

As with many of our duties, asking the important questions and noting simple changes could spark the flame of an entirely new way to complete a process or give valuable time back for other tasks that need to be completed. Footprints weren’t left on the moon by people who walked to work staring at the ground. Each of us has the opportunity to make an impact just as those pioneers did.

Nearly one hour has passed and lunch is almost over. Your return to work can bring much of the same routine, but it doesn’t have to. It’s far past the time to lay the mundane to rest. Your attention thus far validates your desire to tap into your latent capacity. Nothing phenomenal happens on autopilot.

Take hold of your agenda, breathe new life into it. See it as if it were the first time, with new eyes and an insatiable hunger for revitalization. Applying other hand awareness can change a task in a work center today, lead to a policy change for tomorrow and has the ability to create change for your organization’s future.