Timespan is a frame to understand.
Timespan is the language of context to understand what is happening now in relationship to the past and future. Anecdotal references to the “big picture” or “50,000 foot level” can specifically be measured in timespan.
We can look at business processes, over time, and examine the cause-effect relationships of process elements. We can also look inward, look at ourselves, over time, and examine the cause-effect relationships of our own internal decisions. What happened in the past shapes the present. What is happening now gives us insight into the future, but only if we can see the context.
Who are you now? Who will you be in one year? Who will you be in five years?
We have numerous metaphors that allude to higher level thinking. Seeing the big picture. Not a sprint, but a marathon. In it for the long haul. Humans have the unique ability to observe things directly and also to observe themselves, observing things directly. Higher level thinking.
This is context. Humans can not only see the “event,” but the context of the “event.” It’s only an event. An event is anything that gets our attention. Context provides meaning for the event.
Ray Dalio, Principles, alludes to this higher level thinking. “Higher level thinking gives you the ability to study and influence the cause-effect relationships at play in your life and use them to get the outcomes you want.”
Elliott Jaques codified higher level thinking with his discovery of timespan. Timespan is the context, the timeframe in which an event exists. Higher level thinking is simply a longer timespan context. Jaques created a numeric reference for these timeframes which helps as a shorthand to describe each context.
- Level I – 1 day – 3 months.
- Level II – 3 months – 1 year.
- Level III – 1 year – 2 years.
- Level IV – 2 years – 5 years.
- Level V – 5 years – 10 years.
An event has meaning in the context of a season. A season has meaning in the context of a year. A year has meaning in the context of a decade. Timespan perspective helps us understand single events in the midst of multiple events. Context answers the question, “Compared to what?”