Your perspective is right - and also wrong!


Did you enjoy the video? I did, and I keep sharing it with everyone that I know, showing it especially during our Strategic Decision Making programme. You would have seen that the picture of the man was actually made up of different pieces of discarded materials including a wheel barrow, a rusted chair, a section of a bed post, a guitar, and even the head of a statue! However, taken together and seen from one spot, they form the picture of the postal worker, like so...

So, is this a work of art, or is it simply a pile of junk? The answer is both! It is a pile of junk when viewed from angles other than the one in the centre through the viewing window, the one that one pulls in all these pieces in a certain perspective to give you a work of art!

So what's the big deal about this?

Well, it is simply that all these perspectives are correct. Viewed from different angles, it can be a postal worker, or it could be a religious artefact, or it could be a pile of garden tools. And they are! So how can we pull this apart to say for sure this is one thing or another? In truth we cannot.

And this is the same thing when it comes to our decisions. When we are trying to make a decision, we see things from a certain angle, and the perspective that greets us is correct - from that angle. So when we make a decision, it will in all honesty, be correct - but at that angle! Yet, from a different angle, we see a totally different thing, and this may set up the conditions for us to make a radically different decision! So, two people, when looking at the same situation, may come to two diversely different decisions, and both of them are correct! So herein lies the rub, ladies and gentlemen - the reason why we have so many conflicts in the office, at home, even in the playground, is because we see things differently, and we are convinced that what we see is the absolute truth, failing to acknowledge another person's point of view, leading sometimes to a protracted disagreement. Not very healthy, is it? So here are 4 ways to help you move away from a fixed position and create the conditions for adopting the right perspective.

1. Suspend judgement

When people have strong convictions for their ideals, they can sometimes become self-righteous. They may even judge others as wrong, or ignorant. When this happens, they fail to see what the other person is seeing simply because that person is "mistaken". After all, we who are right cannot bend to the wiles of those who are wrong, correct? The first thing we need to do is to be aware that taking such strong positions may lead to cognitive blindness, to self-righteousness; and we need to at least acknowledge that there are alternatives and even if they may be "less right" than you, they are, nevertheless, alternatives; and once there are alternatives, ideals become less certain. You may not be right.

2. Expand your vision

Take a look at this picture...

Do you see a nice countryside on a bright sunny day, with a slight chance of rain? Looks like it is going to be one of those lazy days again, don't you think?

Now, if we expanded this picture, this is what we see...

The first image was taken from the bottom right hand corner of this picture, and now, it does not look like there is going to be a lazy day!

The fact of the matter is that our thinking, our perspectives, are like spotlights. We see only the parts where the spotlight shines on, and the rest of the image is in darkness; and darkness equates to "not being there". So one can be oblivious of the oncoming hurricane simply because we fail to expand our vision, we fail to move the spotlight around to get a larger sense of what is happening.

To overcome this, we need to move our spotlight around, peering at upstream and downstream situations, so that we have a bigger, more accurate picture of our current situation, and from there, form a better opinion. You might change your mind about that lazy day once you see the hurricane bearing down on you!

3. Purposely kill your perspective

Now we come to a more provocative measure to look at your situation in a different light. One thing that we don't do enough is to see how our point of view can be wrong. It might be helpful to look for ways that do not support our point of view, and then assess if these are realistic. For example, one might be fixated on the idea that staff turnover of between 10% - 20% is healthy for an organisation. (I actually know of a CEO who thinks this way, so this is a real example! ) Now let's kill this idea and say, "Staff turnover of 10% - 20% is unhealthy." Then we look for ways why it is so...

  • there is poor productivity

  • morale is weak

  • no one tries to build close ties

  • inter-department collaboration is almost non-existent

We now look around the company, and see if indeed these are occurring. If they are, then we might be on to a shift in our thinking, that a high turnover (and 10-20% is actually high!) has an adverse effect on the organisation's will to excel. Once we accept that this may be the actual case, we can take active steps to shore up confidence, and build a more inclusive environment, and to offer more sustenance to a person's job than simply a salary.

So killing your point of view may well help you see the truth from the illusion!

4. Seek counsel

The last thing we can do is to seek the counsel of people that we respect, but who might not see things our way. By getting their point of view, and actively considering what they say, and not being defensive about your own point of view, you will be given glimpses of alternative perspectives that may well be the right one for your situation. Then, as you weigh the merits of each of these perspectives, you will see which is the most likely and resonable, the one that best explains all that you see about your situation, and then adopt that.

Be critical

Nobody wants to make a mistake; nobody wants to adopt the wrong solution to a situation; nobody likes a misunderstanding between colleagues, family and friends. These are the result of clinging to the wrong perspective of your situation. The failure to see, and to accept, other perspectives makes you arrogant, dogmatic and self-righteous. It also makes you inflexible, and, some may even say, foolish. There is a fine line between self-confidence and hubris, and the one who doggedly holds on to his own point of view without being critical about it, without seeing where he may be wrong, and what may well be the real situation, is the one who might live to regret his own decisions. You need to hold your own perspectives to the highest form of scruntiny, and you need to be critical on your own thoughts. It is only when you have exhausted all possible scenarios of your situation, all possible perspectives of your situation, that you will be able to come upon the right one, and that is when you can have strong convictions about it.

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