Liminal Thinking
Liminal Thinking

Liminal Thinking

“What is liminal thinking? Liminal is a word that means boundary, doorway, portal. Not this or that, not the old way or the new way, but neither and both. A state of ambiguity or disorientation that precedes a breakthrough to a new kind of thinking. (Location 173)

This is certainly a book to be read because it is like being with Dave himself, filled with the energy of his conviction, his whole belief system about how to get through our life of thinking and making sense, asking questions, exploring our alternatives, and in a conversational way, with Super Glue attached, putting it all together in an amalgam of a story. (Location 181)

What I learned from Kurt is that beliefs are often the main things standing in the way of change, not only for individuals, but also for teams, families, organizations, nations, and even the world as a whole. (Location 210)

We construct our beliefs, mostly unconsciously, and thereafter they hold us captive. They can help us focus and make us more effective, but sadly, they also can limit us: they blind us to possibility and subject us to fog, fear, and doubt. (Location 217)

But it was accompanied by a deeper change. I realized that if I could quit smoking—something I had thought was impossible—then I was capable of a lot more. (Location 235)

A new way of seeing the world—and yourself—opens the door to change and growth. (Location 240)

Boundaries give life structure, which makes us comfortable. But they can also be shifted, rethought, reframed, and reorganized. (Location 249)

Change happens at the boundaries of things: the boundary between the known and the unknown, the familiar and the different, between the old way and the new way, the past and the future. (Location 251)

These are liminal roles because they are associated with growth and change, which involve breaking, shifting, or otherwise transcending boundaries (Location 255)

You usually don’t notice these liminal moments, but they are valuable sources of creativity and insight. (Location 257)

Liminal thinking is the art of creating change by understanding, shaping, and reframing beliefs. (Location 270)

The problem is that they cannot separate their experiences from reality. (Location 295)

We all can grasp some fragments of reality, but none of us have a grasp on reality as a whole. (Location 300)

Reality as a whole is unknowable. (Location 307)

Beliefs seem like perfect representations of the world, but, in fact, they are imperfect models for navigating a complex, multidimensional, unknowable reality. (Location 348)

Belief reduces reality from infinite complexity to a small set of theories, which form the foundations on which you (and everyone else) construct our beliefs. (Location 428)

As I said earlier, it’s easy to confuse your beliefs with reality, and that’s what most people do. (Location 431)

The space between the baseline of reality and “the obvious” is liminal space. These needs, feelings, and thoughts happen inside you. If you don’t talk about them, they are invisible to others. (Location 442)

A belief is a story in your head, a cause-and-effect chain, like a recipe or rule for action. (Location 470)

“If x, then y.” A very simple example would be, if you are hungry (need), then eat (belief). (Location 472)

It’s called a learning loop: a continuous feedback cycle of needs, thinking, and action. It’s the way we learn how to act, to give us the best chance to get what we want out of any situation. (Location 485)

In that case, my reaction would probably reinforce Spitfire’s existing belief: that he needed to protect the bone. So he would continue the bad behavior. (Location 499)

He pretty much saw other dogs as a threat, probably because somewhere in his history other dogs meant competition for scraps of food. (Location 514)

a self-reinforcing pattern of positive belief and behavior. Nowadays, whenever Spitfire sees another dog, he is super-excited and looks forward to making a new friend. (Location 518)

I still can go get a master’s degree. But if he’s wrong, I will have saved myself a lot of time and money. (Location 578)

by sharing his knowledge about the situation, which was greater than mine. (Location 581)

My friend had a limiting belief—a belief that narrowed the range of possibilities. (Location 583)

The same boundaries that make it possible for us to think also limit what we can conceive. (Location 591)

Liminal thinking is a way to identify limiting beliefs and open yourself to hitherto unseen possibilities that can open new doors. (Location 595)

Citizens set aside general partisan values about war and intervention—if any such values exist—to support their party’s position in each conflict.” (Location 620)

Collectively, we create a kind of bubble of belief that reinforces and protects our existing beliefs by denying that alternative beliefs are within the realm of possibility. (Location 623)

And the longer a group of people have been operating with a shared map, the more likely there will be a mismatch between the map and reality. (Location 635)

New information from outside the bubble of belief is discounted, or distorted, because it conflicts with the version of reality that exists inside the bubble. (Location 656)

you’re going to think it’s a mistake, or a lie, or somebody got it wrong. You will tend to do whatever is necessary to protect the consistency and coherence of that bubble, because to you, that bubble is reality itself. (Location 667)

Liminal thinking requires a willingness to test and validate new ideas, even when they seem absurd, crazy, or wrong. (Location 668)

I asked him to explain, and as he did, it became more and more clear to me that his theories were muddled and confused. I couldn’t understand how they made sense, even to him. (Location 689)

And like most people, he wants to believe that he is important, that he matters. (Location 698)

Numerous studies have found that when people feel a lack of control, they have an increased propensity to form conspiracy theories as a way to explain their helplessness.1, 2, 3 (Location 704)

In fact, governing beliefs are so important to group cohesion that their very existence depends on not talking about them. (Location 719)

Many problems that senior leaders most want to solve are, at least partially, and usually unconsciously, caused by their own behavior. (Location 779)

If it affects you strongly, that means that you are probably not outside the problem. You are inside of it. You’re a part of it, probably in ways you are not fully aware of. (Location 782)

Your biggest blind spot is yourself. (Location 787)

Instead of bringing in new technology like laptops, they built their program on technology people already knew and used in Uganda, such as mobile phones and text messages. (Location 813)

There’s real feedback and people are involved because the program was designed based on a real understanding of the situation rather than just good intentions. (Location 819)

Mick told me that by the time his team arrives in a company, the people who work there are ready for change. Mick and his people go in and they listen. They talk to employees. They talk to customers. (Location 836)

Mick told me that it’s very rare for the team that got the company into trouble to be able to turn it around. (Location 839)

Sometime in the past, they had hit on something that worked well. But the business world doesn’t stand still, and over time things changed. (Location 840)

When they start to fail, they will tend to blame their failure on everything, and everyone, except themselves. They get to a point where they are in denial and unable to learn. (Location 842)

He would walk in to a situation, and if he did have assumptions, nobody could figure out what they were. (Location 845)

Good leaders supplement the information that’s coming to them through official channels with a lot of walking around and sense-making on the ground. (Location 852)

It requires you to suspend disbelief, at least temporarily—to forget things that you know like the back of your hand, to discount things that seem obvious, and to open your mind to ideas that seem strange, absurd, incoherent, and sometimes even impossible. (Location 865)

I used to think that good communication was all about clarity and understanding. I named my company XPLANE because we focused on explaining things. (Location 889)

I’ve discovered that people will often say they agree when they don’t agree. They will say they are on board when they are not on board. (Location 893)

When a meeting, for example, is not a safe place for people to share their feelings and their needs, you will get people saying one thing and doing another, a story we have all seen play out hundreds of times. (Location 906)

Reason does not get people to act. Emotion is what causes people to act. People can think something is perfectly logical and still not do it because they don’t care enough about it, or they don’t have any emotional attachment to it. The reason that people do things, especially heroic or major things, things that take a lot of effort, is because they care. (Location 910)

As it turns out, the problem was that store managers had an emotional need that they were not comfortable expressing or discussing openly. (Location 921)

That created a lot of anxiety, but store managers could not openly discuss it, because it would seem like they were not team players. (Location 924)

Does this person feel like they have control of their life, their work, and their destiny? (Location 943)

He could have said, “Oh, wow, I’m so sorry you got stranded on the highway, but what great initiative. What a good job you did to take care of everything in such difficult circumstances.” But he didn’t say that. (Location 966)

he diminished her status, took away her autonomy, and treated her in a way that she felt was unfair. (Location 971)

People need to feel that they matter, that they have control over their lives, and that they can make decisions for themselves. (Location 975)

If you take these things away, you are starving them emotionally. When people are emotionally starving, they come up with conspiracy theories. They cover up, hide, and hoard information. They play political games. (Location 980)

He created this comfortable place in the middle of a sea of gray cubicles that was attractive, and he would invite people to have tea with him. (Location 988)

They are practically self-fulfilling prophecies: if you believe them, they are almost guaranteed to come true, because you will set your expectations and act in ways that make them come true. And in any case, they can never be disproven. (Location 1055)

Does the theory make a prediction that might not come true? That is, can it be proven false? (Location 1059)

They are not falsifiable theories, but self-fulfilling prophecies that can never be disproven. (Location 1066)

Don’t you understand that we have been fighting the Chinese for a thousand years? We were fighting for our independence. And we would fight to the last man. (Location 1076)

They believed that we had simply replaced the French as a colonial power, and we were seeking to subject South and North Vietnam to our colonial interests, which was absolutely absurd. (Location 1080)

Now he understood why they were having success in some places and meeting resistance in others. Everything started to make more sense. (Location 1108)

Each map represented one theory of the world, one version of reality. It was only by viewing the situation through multiple perspectives—multiple theories—that he was able to gain insight and see the situation differently. (Location 1110)

Cultivate as many theories as you can—including some that seem odd, counterintuitive, or even mutually contradictory—and hold onto them loosely. Don’t get too attached to any one of them. (Location 1121)

What are you missing? If someone says something that seems odd or unbelievable, ask yourself, “What would I need to believe for that to be true?” (Location 1127)

Mitchell Sipus is a humanitarian aid worker and consultant who has worked in some of the world’s most conflict-laden environments: (Location 1147)

Because he is coming in from outside the system, when Mitch wanders around he will tend to ask questions about things that may seem “obvious” to the people who live in that system. (Location 1174)

By asking questions, Mitch finds liminal, in-between spaces that people may not have seen or considered. (Location 1178)

That the son was out of control, and the solution was to reassert control. In order to change the situation, they needed to change their belief that by asserting control they would help their son learn self-control. (Location 1209)

What happened there? She was disrupting a typical pattern not by attacking the problem, but by attacking her typical solution to the problem. (Location 1226)

so he started making time for the team to reflect and think about their problems, asking them what they thought they should do, and doing his best to make it possible. (Location 1237)

By creating space for reflection, Woody disrupted that routine. (Location 1254)

Think about your route to work. If you’re like me, you take that trip on autopilot. (Location 1260)

The constraints were imaginary. They were just old rules, and nobody even knew why they were there. (Location 1297)

If you can form a hypothesis, you don’t have to necessarily believe it’s true in order to test it. You can simply act as if it were true and see what happens. (Location 1298)

You can even test beliefs that you think are wrong—and you should. (Location 1307)

All you have to do is act as if it were true and see what happens. (Location 1309)

There are worlds of possibility all around you—many possible ways to operate, many possible beliefs. (Location 1321)