7 Ways to Gain Perspective

Leonardo da Vinci once extolled the virtues of occasionally gaining distance from your work when he said:

“Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen.”

I’m with Leonardo on this one.

This week, I directly experienced the benefits of gaining perspective through distance, when I went on holiday to the other side of the world. Away from my coaching practice, immersed in a completely different culture, I became clearer on a number of challenging problems which I have been grappling with lately.

On one occasion, it was nothing short of an epiphany. Looking at the tree in a painting by Gustav Klimt, the answer to a particular question I’d been trying to answer for months suddenly struck me like a lightning bolt.

Suzi McAlpine - The Leader's Digest

To move away from your work, figuratively or literally, can reap a multitude of benefits.

The problem is that if we are ‘in it’ constantly,  we can fall into a rut. When this happens, we can be seeing the same problems (and offering the same solutions) over and over again.

To create a new approach to an old problem, we often need to view the matter from a different angle.

If we do the same things, we will get the same results. If we use our same old bag of tricks, we will end up with the same magic show.

When a new solution is required, change your perspective on the problem.

How can you do this? Hint: it does not require a holiday – but that can absolutely be one method!

Here are just 7 ways you can interweave perspective into your work:

1.      Adopt a different person’s perspective to the same problem. If you were a customer, a competitor, or one of your suppliers, what would your perspective be on this issue? What would you say if you were them? Sometimes, asking this question can catalyse breakthrough moments.

2.      Who else has faced and solved this problem? What can you learn from them? Other industries can offer insights. Analogies can provide illuminating connections. Can you take seemingly different aspects and join them together?

3.      Take your issue to a trusted advisor who has no vested interest in the problem and ask for their opinion. Or, get them to ask you some powerful or illuminating questions. Coaching is one option, as is a mentor.

4.      Engage nonverbal, right brain techniques. Ditch words for a moment. Use visuals, pictures or metaphors to engage your right brain and rev up your creative juices to describe the issue. Ask yourself – if this problem was a journey/animal/personality/painting, what would it be? What does this tell us? Given it’s an ‘X’, what is now needed? What are my insights from this perspective?

5.      Are you even asking the right questions? For example, asking the question “should we invest in this project, or not?” will elicit a different response to “what are our best investment opportunities?” Challenge yourself to rephrase your question.

6.      What are my paradigms? What ‘sacred cows’ (either organisationally, industry wide, or within myself) are holding me back? How am I getting in my own way on this? In their book Decisive, Chip Heath and Dan Heath suggest one way to switch your perspective is to ask, “what would my successor do?”

7.      Look to nature. Often nature can provide us with insights and answers.  For starters click here to see just a few examples of when the animal world has inspired great design.

When we move away from a problem to explore new angles and gain a different perspective, we will often see something new. This can provide the key to opening the doorway we have been seeking.

Now, back to that holiday…..

WIN: You still have time to enter my draw to win one of five copies of Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. Click here for more details…

1 Comment

  1. Bindy on October 18, 2013 at 8:17 am

    go klimt, what a beautiful lens to chose for a perspective adjustment!

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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