You need perspective . . . but you’re not looking in the right place

View from the clock tower, Bruges, Belgium

Perspective: you cannot have a useful insight without it.

We all crave perspective. We go on vacation to the mountains or the beach, just to admire the view. After looking at close-up smartphones, laptops right in front of us, and colleagues in the same room, the simple act of focusing at infinity relaxes us. There’s a long sigh, and then, somehow, things look different.

It’s no coincidence that the “aha” moment often follows a change in scenery.

How do you get perspective on the problems you, your colleagues, and your industry are wrestling with?

The answer is unlikely to be sitting neatly in front of your eyes, in your colleagues’ minds, or in what the rest of the people in your industry are saying.

To find the answer, you need to seek out someone who heartily disagrees with what you believe in . . . and listen to her.

You must find someone who doesn’t share your skin color, your gender, your language or culture . . . and listen to him.

If you’re in health care, talk to someone in retail. If you’re in government, talk to someone in a small business. If you’re in technology, talk to someone in fashion.

They don’t have your answers either. But fitting their unfamiliar ideas into your familiar frameworks will shake something loose. You’ll see a new metaphor, or learn something new from what they take for granted every day.

It’s uncomfortable out there where people think differently from you. Stepping away from your circle of knowledge will make you feel ignorant and insecure.

But you’re not going to find your perspective from looking in the mirror.

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  1. i love this idea. sometimes doing artwork i will turn the picture upside down to force a different perspective, but this works well for viewpoints and words about them.

  2. A great idea. I’ve hit a roadblock in a paper I’m writing on minimizing acid mine water production in a defunct copper mine. Tomorrow I’ll set up a meeting with the “contending parties”, try this idea and see what shakes loose.

    Thank you.