Horror Vacui or Deja Visite Anyone?
I recently learned about two different concepts, horror vacui and deja visite. I’m pleased to say I don’t seem to have horror vacui, but I often experience deja visite. How about you?
Aristotle believed that nature abhors an empty space. In extreme cases this leads to people exhibiting a behavior known as horror vacui. These people have a horror of leaving an empty space anywhere. A painter with horror vacui must fill every surface on her canvas; a decorator must furnish every inch of a room.
Other people exhibit deja visite, the sense of knowing your way around someplace you’ve never been before. They show up in a city they’ve never visited, look around, and are sure they know exactly how to get to the hotel across town without turning on their GPS.
The implications of each for those in leadership or managerial positions are intriguing. As they are for those they lead or manage.
Horror vacui leads to difficulty in making decisions, to difficulty concluding that enough is enough. After all, there is always something that you might have missed that could change your decision or make it a bit better. There’s surely a space somewhere that if filled would improve how things turn out. Until you fill that space you feel that the picture is not finished, the process is incomplete, you’re not ready to make a decision.
Deja visite leads to the opposite result. You look at a random collection of facts or ideas and suddenly a picture appears that enables you to know exactly where each piece fits into a unified whole. Decisions come rapidly.
We all know people who exhibit these attributes. Those who are always looking for the last piece of the puzzle before acting and those who look at an unfinished puzzle and suddenly visualize the path to completion and get moving toward it.
Each attribute has its place. The effects of horror vacui and deja visite are exhibited at all levels of an organization. People exhibiting them are a help or a hindrance depending on how well they’re placed and the assignments they receive.
Play with these ideas. Think about having a leader who is always looking for one more fact before moving forward. Or a leader who with little information suddenly knows exactly where they’re going. And think about how you operate and implications for your results.