Exceptional Release Presents:
Other Hand Awareness:  A Simple Approach to Modern Problems

By: Capt Zachery Teague and TSgt Darryl McNeil

You are at work, seemingly on auto-pilot 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 raindrops beating steadily against the pavement.

Before you consciously register that you have been typing the last 15 minutes, the task is complete.  Without a second glance, the file is saved and sent to your boss, all while you grab your keys in a rush out the door.

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

Professional athletes, world-class musicians, and Michelin 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, yet are unceasing in their 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.

“Awareness is the greatest agent for change.”

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 where most everyone would consider themselves to be very efficient.

Now that these easy tasks are in our minds, let’s perform them with our non-dominant hand.   Unless you are ambidextrous, or about 1% of the world population, your completion time was likely much slower.  What seemed flawless under normal circumstances now feels faulty and rigid.

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 that 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” (OHA) 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: identification and completion.  The big adjustment during application is to 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 for you to note any subtle differences or to collect questions that are sparked during your attentive state.  You might notice simple items such as particular assets being kept in a location that slows the process or work that 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 OHA, 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 OHA?  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, OHA 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 for the mundane to end.  Your attention thus far validates your desire to tap into your latent capacity.  Nothing phenomenal happens on autopilot.  Take hold of your agenda and breathe new life into it.

See it as if it were the first time, with new eyes and an insatiable hunger for revitalization.  Applying OHA can change a task in a work center today.  OHA can lead to a policy change for tomorrow.  OHA has the ability to create change for your organization’s future.  Sun Tzu stated, “Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can.”  Wake up, pay attention; it’s time for us to get to work.

About the Authors:

Capt Zach Teague is a Logistics Readiness Officer assigned to the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT).  He is currently an Education With Industry (EWI) Fellow at Delta Airlines Technical Operations in Atlanta, GA.

TSgt Darryl McNeil is a Fuels Specialist assigned to the 6th Logistics Readiness Squadron at MacDill AFB. He is currently the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of the Fuels Service Center.

Featured photo credit: U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 374th LRS

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