Saturday, November 6, 2010

Seeing the world through other's eyes

There seem to be as many different ways of seeing the world as there are humans. The potential differences are mindbogglingly huge, an astounding Factorial 6500 million differences (about 10 multiplied by itself 10,000,000,000 times).

Each of us grows up with a unique set of influences that no other person on the planet - past present or future - will ever experience. And although this myriad of unique lenses could lead to ongoing disagreement, misunderstanding and lack of trust, there is equally the opportunity for considerable creative potential for good when we bridge and integrate our differences to create new theories, models, lifestyles, products or services.

There's over 6500 languages, with English currently displacing many others that have been around for thousands of years. We can grow up in the traditions of hundreds of religions including the Christian, Bhuddist, Hindu and Islamic faiths. We can stay within or surf to a new stage of human development, of which there are six, starting with the Hunter Gatherer and ending up with post-Knowledge Age (Wisdom Age or Wisdom Economy) ways of being in the world. Political views stretch from the anarchist, communist and socialist on the left to the conservative and fascist on the right.

Then there are career differences. We have White, Blue and now Green Collar work. We work for organizations that range from the academic, religious, business and community to local, state, federal and international  governments. Jobs are as diverse as soldier, lawyer, policeman, prostitute, airline pilot, fisherman, janitor, farmer, psychiatrist and teacher. Each has its' own unique language and concepts that may not be known to other disciplines....which can complicate communication beyond belief.

There's also a huge array of mental models with which to analyse and understand the world. MBA's frequently see the world through the lense of SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) or McKinsey's 7-S Model (Style, Structure, Systems, Staff, Strategy, Super-ordinate goals). Farmers think about Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring. Christians might view the world through the lense of the Ten Commandments, Thou Shalt Not Kill or Thou must not covet thy neighbour's ass. Some have a simplistic view of Right and Wrong. And electricians and plumbers have to be sure the power or water is On or Off before they start work.

So what if we could learn to see the world through other people's viewpoints, to live inside their mental models for a few minutes, or a days or a couple of weeks, a critical skill in the emerging Wisdom Economy. Here's a workshop to begin the process:

1. Beliefs: Brainstorm a list of 10 things you believe.
2. Labels: What's some labels you might use to describe the way you see the world e.g. Christian, Catholc, Bhuddist, Capitalist, Socialist, Accountant.You might be more than one....
3. Mental Models: Brainstorm a list of the 2-10 attributes you use to analyse the world around you....Here are some examples.....SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats), The Seasons (Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring,
4. Mental Models: Describe a mental model you use to understand the world around you and how you use in your life. e.g. Right-Wrong.
5. Here's a problem...Use your mental model to make a decison about how to solve this problem...give your reasons, and as you do, explain how you mental model/lense helps you understand it better.
6. Now pick another mental model/lense different to yours, and analysis this new problem..., explain how you used the model/lense to arrive at your conclusions.
7. What did you learn from this experience? What did you learn about mental models/lenses?