My wife and I see the need for home repairs very differently. She's more attuned to subtle defects, noticing many I don’t. It's not surprising. She spends more time at home and views things more closely. We also look from different perspectives – different chairs, bathrooms, even heights, since I’m taller. Yet with my more distant perspective, I notice certain items needing attention that she doesn’t. It usually occurs when I’m doing an unfamiliar activity - putting things away, cleaning, yard work, etc.
This same phenomenon happens in business even with things such as opportunities, challenges, and processes. You look at something very closely, maybe because you have responsibility for it. Since you spend so much time with it, you may view it from several perspectives, but all of them VERY close. Still you’re likely missing things that are obvious to others who see what you see from a different vantage point.
The key is to be able to actively look at a situation from blatantly different viewpoints. So if I may, here are a few great suggestions for changing how you “look”:
Move Further Away
- Have someone completely unfamiliar with the situation observe it, and ask them, "What are your impressions of what took place?"
- Change your seat – physically or virtually – and take a few steps back from where you usually “sit” while viewing a situation. What do you see differently?
- Look at only one aspect of a process – repeat “how” and “why” questions (i.e., How is this working? Why does this happen?) until you’ve explored many possibilities for new insights.
Look from a Different Height
- Spend a day on the front lines with sales, manufacturing, or customer service – what do they see about the process or opportunity that you don’t?
- Spend time directly with a customer as they interact with your business – how does it look to them?
- Shadow a senior executive (maybe a mentor) – what regularly makes its way to their level?
Look from a Different Perspective
- Have someone else carry out the process – what’s different?
Several of these techniques helped diagnose what wasn’t working with a new planning process recently. By having new participants review it, sitting in different seats to observe interaction, and using different facilitators to lead the process, we’ve cut the initial time for the process by 50% and created more-tailored exercises. And we got these results by simply changing how we look - without plastic surgery or having to address the worst Valentine’s Day “look” question of all, “Does this make me look heavy?”