This is an Eval Central archive copy, find the original at cense.ca.
One of the myths of innovation is that something has to be new. It doesn’t. Something only needs to be new in context. This means that an old idea brought forth into a different or refreshed context can be innovative. For example, home visits and care by health practitioners have become innovative ways to address healthcare resource constraints. This approach to medicine and care is a very old way of working that was largely abandoned in the 20th century.
Perspective-taking and making is about seeing our present context through different factors. One method we use in our work is to look at an organization’s history and inventory of skills and knowledge to see what has been learned in the past (and potentially lost, forgotten, or ignored) that can bring fresh insights into the present.
An organization’s most unique value is its experience. No other organization- its people, resources, and accomplishments- has what it has. This can be ignored. To illustrate, a particular organization might operate within a market with many competitors or collaborators, but none will know or experience certain things. These things might be tied to physical location, staffing, timing of production, or something else. These experiences are often taken for granted but can benefit an organization seeking to grow, evolve, or pivot within a specific situation.
This exercise can be done with an external consultant or a familiar person/group that knows the organization/team/people of interest but exists outside of it. That external individual or agent should be either at arm’s length, unfamiliar with the situation, or disconnected from the present context. To illustrate, consider a past mentor or teacher, a former collaborator, or a colleague from an outside firm. These are individuals who know enough about what you do but see what you do slightly differently than you do.
Engage them in a discussion about the present situation and approach the conversation as one of seeking perspective. Ask this individual or group:
- What does this look like to you?
- What opportunities do you see for me?
- What can I do to address this situation wisely?
- What assets or skills am I neglecting to use in approaching this situation?
The external person is more likely to see things that you don’t because they are less invested in the present situation while being invested in you. This gives them a greater or different set of options because their stakes are lower. They are less constrained by fear, bias, excitement, or perceived constraints than you are. This allows them to see some things more clearly while also drawing on their knowledge about you.
If you are engaging a consultant, they should spend time ahead of this exercise familiarizing themselves with the work you do, your history, and even interview or consult with people who are familiar with your work. They will combine their subject matter or process expertise with this information to help provide those different perspectives. This is the value of a different perspective.
This is how we approach our work with clients and it’s how you can be of value to those just outside your own circle.
Try this out, the perspectives you’ll see will help you escape a rut, a see new possibilities.
If you want help with this, let’s talk.