"Aesthetic thinking" - What is it and what is it good for?

At FELIX Institut we train coaches and leaders in the aesthetic dimension of organisation and human interaction. What is "aesthetic thinking"? And what does it mean to "perceive finely"? Aesthetic thinking is a sensitivity for and an awareness of the implicit, of what is communicated between the lines. Any of our words and expressions intentionally or (more often than not) unintentionally reveal something about our underlying worldview. They give clues to the cultural contexts that we take for granted and place our interaction in.

Take for example the widespread phenomenon of martial metaphors in every day business language: We "attack" a new project, feel we are "deep in the trenches" or are afraid a colleague might become "defensive" when considering whether or not to confront them with a criticism. Words that reveal an inner expectation of an adverse and potentially hostile world.

Any choice of words, images and expressions says so much more about the speaker than about the subject matter. So does the way it is being said, be it hastily, tentatively, in a

relativising or assertive way. Also more often than not we find ourselves reacting not so much to what has been said, but to how it has been expressed. Something in the resulting atmosphere bugs us, individual words trigger us, a sharp look pierces us etc. Often these moments are "critical incidents" in which we can observe the underlying worldview to surface and manifest itself in what becomes a symbolic situation. (Obviously these are the instances we organizational consultants tend to pick up on.)

Now, aestethic thinking is a heightened awareness for this implicit dimension and for the deeper meanings co-communicated through it. It opens the door to a dialogical conversation and joint re-examination on the search for its deeper meaning and a more fitting expression. And it opens the space for true insight, awareness and a new level of self-knowledge. It provides new ways of looking at the same thing and apprehending it in very different colours. In short, aesthetic thinking is the capacity to make sense out of sensing. Or to say the same with a bit more colour: to experience the music played by someone else in the sound box of your own body - and to explore the resonance it generates in you.


Reference: Wolfgang Welsch (1995): Ästhetisches Denken