To make good decisions and to keep relationships running smoothly, consider accounting for at least two types of context.
Proximate context includes what’s happening in and around the decision-maker and the community or problem they hope to engage.
Temporal context includes what’s happened up to the present moment and future possibilities, probabilities, and risks given past performance.
I’ve been in strategy sessions that fail to take immediate or time-distant contexts into account. We can have the most creative and committed people around the table, but if the conversation is ahistorical or not connected to “the context of use” (the communities and circumstances where ideas, policies, or processes eventually go to work), anything we produce will eventually hit the ground hollow.
Context makes a healthy base for the choices we make in designing our own work, engaging the people and organizations around us, and responding to the contributions of others.
Accounting for history as well as the here and now supports us in accepting the capacities, potentials, and limits of our structures, the people who keep them running today, and the legacies that influence us all and make some outcomes more likely than others.