16th February 2022

The beholder’s share

Here’s a short post on appreciating everyday work, and the philosophical / cognitive concept known as “The beholder’s share”:

A colleague received an excellence report recently citing their excellence in a clinical tutorial.  “It’s nice to be thanked, but I was just doing my job, teaching is part of everyday work,” they said.  But it is more than that; the individual who submitted the excellence report noticed something about the tutorial which was excellent, from their unique perspective.

The recipient of the report is overlooking “the beholder’s share” – the part of the experience unique to the beholder (the recipient of the tutorial, in this case).  The beholder’s share was originally used to describe the viewer’s experience of a work of art – at least half of the viewer’s experience comes from the viewer themselves – the beholder. The Beholder’s Share

This phenomenon is now recognized in the field of neuroscience – The beholder’s share – from “7½ Lessons”.  Feedback is personal to the person giving the feedback, as well as the one receiving it.  In this case, the tutorial was perceived as excellent. The explanation of why it was excellent (a glimpse of the beholder’s share) was embedded in the description of the report.  The beholder’s share is a source of intelligence in descriptive positive feedback and can be mined for change ideas.

This is typical of “everyday excellence”. Providing positive feedback for this impacts on a triple bottom line: by acknowledging, rewarding and promoting it.

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