WayFinder Philosophy

Jun 14, 2021·
Mark Upton
Mark Upton
· 3 min read

The title of this post sounds a little grand doesn’t it…perhaps conjuring images of an epic exploration? Maybe Ryan Holiday’s assertion that “the only reason to study philosophy is to become a better person” comes to mind?

I’m almost certain this post on its own aint gonna achieve any of the above….sorry to disappoint if that was your expectation (I very much doubt it was 😁).

So what is the purpose of this? As mentioned in the previous post, if a philosophy bounds the approaches, methods and tools you use, then it is probably worth trying to articulate in some shape or form. This is going to be very rough form, and maybe won’t even qualify as philosophical by some definitions.

Speaking of definitions, perhaps we should start there in regards to wayfinding. Here is one formal definition…

Wayfinding (or way-finding) encompasses all of the ways in which people (and animals) orient themselves in physical space and navigate from place to place.

Ok, that seems fairly straightforward and perhaps a little underwhelming. What about a definition from Carl Woods and colleagues in their recent paper on this subject…

Wayfinding is the process of embarking upon a purposeful, intentional, and self-regulated journey that takes an individual from an intended region in one landscape to another

And also this quote from M.R. O’Connor that Carl cites in his paper…

… wayfinding is an activity that confronts us with the marvellous fact of being in the world, requiring us to look up and take notice, to cognitively and emotionally interact with our surroundings

Now we are getting to a bit more depth and richness, with O’Connor alluding to a “way of being” that was mentioned in the previous post, and introducing an affective component to wayfinding. “Noticing” is also going to be a key point to return to at some stage.

Let’s tap into everyday expressions and phrases now. I’ve been deliberate in using an uppercase ‘W’ and ‘F’ in WayFinding to encourage a reading as “way finding”. Flip this around and insert an identifier such as ‘my’ or ‘our’ and you get a very common phrase “finding my/our way”. You here this all the time when someone is starting out in a new field or role - “I’m still finding my way”. I’m proposing that many of us, myself included, feel like we are finding our way (personally and professionally) through a volatile landscape right now.

But that may be a good thing, as we move from one region to explore others. As Alice Chen reminds us…

This is wayfinding: nuanced observation of your inner and outer world, coupled with ongoing exploration and experimentation in deep relationship with yourself, others, and the world as it unfolds – all in the service of going beyond what is.

Wayfinding is a way of navigating through the uncertainty and complexity of the modern world

As cautioned earlier, all of the above may not even qualify as “philosophical”. However I’m satisfied it has captured the essence of WayFinding and why an authentic commitment to it is required to ultimately “do better” now and for future generations.