In business we're always asking what solves the problem. It's much easier to dial into it when we make it personal. It helps us show up and create accountability for solving it. Say we go back to the start and ask—what’s the simplest way to tell someone what the problem is? That’s the problem.
If we can tell simply, then we can put ourselves in the audience and see how we would go about looking for a solution, and what that internal conversation would be. When we make it personal, we look for things we would find interesting. We want to be more accurate and specific. Because we are vested in the perspective we seek to create a solution.
It's useful to be aware that our personal biases may cut both ways. There's a relationship between perspective and power, and when we don't know what's being measured, we need to devise a way to find out what's our instinct. Do we describe the problem so someone else could see it in the proper proportion to their needs? Or do we describe it to make it easier for us to act on it, to deliver a solution?
Which is our default? Do we take our own perspective, or do we take someone else's? Asking this simple question is one method to stay on purpose and work on the right things - both what to say, and how to go about delivering the appropriate solution.
Dan Pink says:
in general, not all the time, there is an inverse relationship between feelings of power and perspective-taking. The more powerful one feels, the worse, typically, their perspective-taking abilities become. High-status people, in organizations and society are typically not good perspective-taking people. The low-status people, they're usually great at it; they're not in control.
if you gradually lose the ability to see the world through someone else's eyes, all the experience and expertise you have accumulated will melt into a puddle of unrealized potential.
But if you work to balance power and perspective-taking (you'll have to work at that, it won't come automatically), you'll become a more effective leader because you will offer reasons beyond “I said so” for why anybody should follow you.
It also helps to gather the facts and to have a framework that will put them in the proper proportion.
Where are we?
We're constantly looking to negotiate our place in the world, both figuratively and literally, as in where we live and work. Now that so many of us can work effectively from anywhere, maybe our literal geography matters less. But how we view business problems is still very much dependent on culture.
Take for example the trend accelerated by startups, many in the tech sector, that increased the number of remote workers. It started with functions like programming or engineering as a way to outsource the function temporarily, then permanently and also to find the most specific and/or skilled individuals, no matter where they lived.
Remote or virtual workers are real people with skills who do not show up at a central office or location every day. The fear is with a loose workforce we lose the common culture. Does it outweigh the benefit of gaining access to a much wider pool of talent?
37Signals, now Bootcamp and Campfire and Highrise is a known example of working as a distributed team successfully. The team's understanding of the challenge helped them design a better product for companies that operate through collaboration.
A simple illustration of how power and perspective interact with proportions is how we look at geographical references.
I used this slide during my Digital Age 2.0 talk in Sao Paulo, Brazil to demonstrate how in the Americas we view the world. This is what we see when we buy a map in the U.S.
This is the map I grew up with in our school walls and geography books. It's more familiar to me and fellow Europeans, and likely it scales to show our country of origin in zoom. Because that is what we focus on. I'm willing to bet that countries in Asia Pacific have their own version.
Which one is accurate?
Interestingly, none of them. It turns out that the mapping method to transfer a spherical form to a flat dimension distorts proportions. By going back to the start, we can ask what’s the simplest way to tell someone what the problem is?
That is the problem. In this case, it's about translating a spherical form onto a rectangular surface accurately. We need a method to transfer the representation and keep its proportions intact. Then we can each look at it from different perspectives. Why not 3D? Technology makes that achievable today.
Keio University Graduate School of Media and Governance + AuthaGraph CO., Ltd Hajime Narukawa Beagle Science Corp. Tetsuya Hoshi did just that [via].
As the 2016 Good Design Award winner entry describes:
this original mapping method can transfer a spherical surface to a rectangular surface such as a map of the world while maintaining correctly proportions in areas*. AuthaGraph faithfully represents all oceans, continents including the neglected Antarctica. These fit within a rectangular frame with no interruptions. The map can be tessellated without visible seams. Thus the AuthaGraphic world map provides an advanced precise perspective of our planet.
It would be inaccurate to say that our maps are the territory. Geography means earth description, it's a field of science. From Wikipedia, “geographers study the space and the temporal database distribution of phenomena, processes, and features as well as the interaction of humans and their environment.”
The maps are the work of cartographers. From Wikipedia, cartography means, “combining science, aesthetics, and technique, cartography builds on the premise that reality can be modeled in ways that communicate communicate spatial information effectively.”
We get the maps we can draw.
(*The map needs a further step to increase a number of subdivision for improving its accuracy to be officially called an area-equal map.)