How Seeing Things Differently Can Show the Way Forward

Strategic Planning October 10, 2018 By: Rhea Blanken, FASAE

Before your next strategic planning session, prime your team to see things from a different point of view. The result: better ideas and communication to illuminate the path ahead.

To prepare for a strategic planning event with two dozen volunteer leaders and staff, an association’s leaders asked me to help them become more aware of their current thinking and perceiving patterns so they could be more intentional about creating their future.

I offered attendees an exercise that uses the tools in Look: A Practical Guide for Improving Your Observational Skills, by James H. Gilmore. In the book, which was inspired by Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats, Gilmore hypothesizes that there are multiple ways of perceiving things and that understanding this makes us better able to shift our points of view.

The exercise gave participants the focus and insights they needed to plan for their future and engage in an energized partnership. Try sharing the following concepts with team members before your next strategy session—they just might lead to better ideas and communication.

Vision Quest

According to Gilmore, we can employ six tool-inspired ways of looking at things when discussing either an existing process in need of improvement or a problem in need of solving:

  1. Use binoculars to survey and scan. Pick a vantage point to better observe the overall scene. This view takes place at a distance and scans for what might be noteworthy. It sets priorities when you are looking through other glasses. Discussion point: In what we think we see, what—if anything— have we missed?
  2. Use bifocals to compare and contrast. Seek to uncover various layers of significance. Your goal is to discover information that can trigger new thoughts and excite your actions. Discussion point: What is the opposing point of view? From the beginning to the end of the prepping process, track your observations.
  3. Use a magnifying glass to pause and pinpoint. Examine one key aspect of anticipated strategic discussion in more detail. You want to spot something that may have been overlooked. Use this when you sense something unusual or unique about the circumstances you’re in. Discussion point: What do you want to know about this but don’t? What may be the most critical or compelling detail?
  4. Use a microscope to scrutinize and study. Search for greater detail. Seek to evaluate the scene by shifting the viewing perspective. Look every which way you can—there is always more to see, and everything is potentially relevant. Discussion point: For more details or possible effects, what else should we look at that’s nearby?
  5. Use rose-colored glasses to enhance and enrich. The idea is to look past readily apparent flaws to see potential and opportunity. Try to envision some idealized state, not just the current state. Try to see something as better than it actually is. Nothing is dismissed as unimportant—not even failure, which can be a resource. Discussion point: What could have made XYZ better? What are the hidden opportunities?
  6. Use a blindfold to be more reflective and better able to recall. Look back at what was seen (or not seen). Pick out your favorite features—the ones that matter most. Be curious to discover why and how something was missed or mistaken. Discussion point: Looking back after an event or task, what stands out?

Your success as a leader depends on how your thinking is translated into another’s reality so that they see what you see. Sometimes people can’t get out of their own way to do that well. From expressing emotions to basic information, from creativity to logical perception, it can feel like we are juggling too many ideas to communicate clearly. Whether we are looking at the big picture or analyzing details, uncovering potential opportunities or revealing personal biases that might distract, we can all benefit from learning new ways to see and think if making an impact and influencing others is our intention.

Finally, keep in mind what futurist Daniel Burrus said: “Your view of the future shapes your actions today, and your actions today shape your future.”

Rhea Blanken, FASAE

Rhea Blanken, FASAE, is president of Results Technology, Inc., in Bethesda, Maryland.