Imagine you were standing on a giant beach ball. When I ask you the colour of the beach ball, it’s obvious right? Its blue and you know that because all around where you are standing is bright blue.
But suppose I asked someone standing elsewhere else on the beach ball its colour. They could answer with equal confidence ‘it’s red’. Another person may tell me it’s yellow, because that’s what they see from where they are standing.
It’s impossible for a leader to see an entire complex system! Our insights are limited by the vantage point we take. So vary your vantage point and make better sense of the situation.
Vary your vantage point by physically moving (particularly useful if you find yourself standing on a large beach ball). Drop into the call centre; talk to the people serving the customers; visit a regional office.
You can also change your vantage point by taking a different perceptual position. ‘If I was a client, how would I see this problem?’ ‘If I was the operations manager/scientist/Richard Branson/on my first day here, what would I notice?’
Accept your cognitive limits. An article in the September issue of Harvard Business Review (Sargut&Gunterh McGrath) suggests that most executives believe they can take in and make sense of more information than research suggests they can!
Encompass more vantage points in your decisions by building diversity into your teams and decision units and then encouraging open and fearless discussion. Welcome ideas that challenge your preconceived notions and expand your view on the world.
What colour IS the beach ball on which you are standing? What will you do today to vary your vantage point and make better decisions?