Lost in their own space

Sometimes potential customers are lost in their own space. They are immersed in their problems, setbacks, frustrations and obstacles. They don't know which way to turn, what to think or how to ease their own pain. They are not in a position to structure their experience, choose wisely or value sophisticated solutions. They are playing the part of unhappy campers, underdogs or losers in some tragic tale of their personal misfortune.

This puts any of us value providers in a precarious position. Customers lost in their own space set us up to be controlling, overbearing and domineering. Their lack of self-structuring baits us to provide too much structure. We then enable their dependency on those who provide excessive structure. We cannot get a sense of how much structure to provide from the customers need for structure. Their lack of structure appears in a stuck place that offers no escape. The customers appear to be unreliable, moody and incapable of getting into their own problem-solving space. There's no obvious way to work with these customers, only work on them, against them or occasionally for them.

This is the biggest hurdle I face in designing a system that gives college dropouts a second chance. My potential customers have internalized countless negative experiences from years of schooling, socializing and working. Most of them are lost in their own space and setting me up to tell them what to think, say and do to excess. Yuk! If I insist they think for themselves, decide what works for themselves and do what it takes to make those changes, they'll draw a proverbial blank in their minds. Yuk again!

Whenever the alternatives under consideration appear to be this far apart, it's time to settle for some middle ground. We cannot get there from from the space that sees the problem because the middle ground of a combined solution is on a different level. We need to rise above the apparent contradictions, limitations and expectations.

At the level above their lack of self-structuring and their bait to provide too much structure, the ecology of interdependencies becomes obvious. Providers of structure depend on those who need structure just as much as those without structure depend on those with enough to share. Those who provide structure also provide examples of having enough structure, providing others with structure and seeing what structure to provide.

The providers of structure offer an alternative space to come inside and play around a bit. They show a way to join the game that provides the right kind and amount of structure to those in need. The space supports requests for structure and resourceful responses to those requests. The dynamism of "ask and receive" works both ways for the givers and takers in the moment. Everybody gets their needs met and those needs evolve in the process. The middle ground works both ways for all the participants. Everyone takes turns requesting/receiving responses and responding/reciprocating. The problems of excesses work themselves out indirectly on this common ground of shared interests.

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