Seeing the walking cow

By Keith Coats   

The Problem:

I am not sure my team is ‘seeing all that there is to see’ as we try to make sense of (insert your specific challenge here).

The Solution:

​‘Seeing the walking cow’? Let me explain. I was travelling in a train the other day idling looking out the window at the passing English countryside when I noticed a cow walking rather briskly (well as briskly as a cow can walk) in a meadow. It stood out, as cows don’t usually move much; they stand idle and graze! This insight was verified as subsequent meadows flashed past and no moving cows - just idle ones doing what they always do - standing still grazing. Now, I’m not about to pin a whole theory on this insight and propose that it will change animal husbandry forever but it did get me thinking about how we see. We tend not to see the moving cows when of course they move all the time.

What might be the ‘moving cow’ you are missing at work? What are you not seeing? By stepping away or by changing your perspective (for me it was the moving train) we create the possibility to see something that ordinarily we might miss. Travel tends to do this as it affords us the opportunity to see something familiar from a different point of view. Changing departments, moving desks, rearranging an office plan – things big and small can be used to create this different perspective thereby yielding new insights and ideas. Looking at our culture, organisation or team through the eyes of someone new can reveal insights that otherwise might have been missed.

So create some perspective by:

  • Mixing things up a bit. Change the routine; the furniture; the agenda.
  • Asking others to share what it is they see. And listen; really listen.
  • Thinking about your organisation, culture or team from the ‘outside in’
  • Ask questions such as: What are the questions we should be asking but aren’t
  • Identify a ‘normal process’ within your work sphere and then try to see it how someone else may experience it.
  • Invite someone to share something that they might think you aren’t aware of or don’t know.


Maybe, just maybe you will see a walking cow. And if you do, it will be well worth it!


The world needs a new leadership response to a global context of change, complexity and uncertainty. Leadership expert (and author of today's Tuesday Tip), Keith Coats is passionate about helping audiences around the world to understand what this response looks like and to equip leaders with the tools needed to respond to this changing context.

Keith's research and global experience of over 20 years has helped him identify the key-defining factors of a successful leader in the 21st century as the ability to learn, grow and be adaptable. It is his great privilege to help leaders access new frameworks and thinking in order to successfully lead into the future.
Chat with us if you would like to explore how he could help your team prepare for the future.