As Abraham Maslow, the famous American psychologist, said in 1966, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” 1
A hammer is not the best tool for every purpose. Yet a person with only a hammer is likely to try and fix everything using it, often without considering other options.
The ‘law of the instrument’ is a cognitive bias involving an over-reliance on a familiar tool rather than looking for a better alternative.
Confirmatory bias can prevent us from looking at situations objectively or from every angle. It can also influence our decisions and lead to poor or wrong choices.
This human tendency is a form of confirmatory bias.2
Unfortunately, we all have this affliction of confirmation bias. Even if you think you are open-minded and only consider the facts before coming to conclusions, some bias will likely shape your opinion. It’s tough to combat this natural tendency because we look at the world from our unique perspective. 3
But what is Perspective?
Perspective is the way we see the world. It comes from our point of view and is shaped by our life experiences, values, the current state of mind, the assumptions they bring into a situation, and many other things.
Behavioural sciences studies have shown that we don’t see things as they are. Instead, we see things as we are and how the situation affects us.
We even seek out and interpret information in a way that will likely confirm our perspective. We see precisely what we expect; even our social media feeds us only what we like to see, reinforcing our biases.
Our perspective can be limiting.
Our perspective is unique, so looking at a situation from only our vantage is limiting. We should be conscious that we all have this bias and actively seek other perspectives because if we don’t, we are merely looking at a situation from our side and could miss a better view, idea, or opportunity.4 Our reaction and decision-making could be deficient and contain flaws or unchallenged assumptions. You could also miss out on the benefits of better collaboration, the opportunity to better understand each other and make a deeper connection.
Unless we see other diverse perspectives, we may not know what we don’t know.
Exceptional leaders encourage diverse views in the workplace.
Successful leaders seek input to foster collaboration, innovation, empathy, and inclusiveness in the workplace. They do what social psychologists take perspective and seek perspective.
Perspective taking and perspective seeking are different skills.
Perspective-taking is the ability to put ourselves in someone else's shoes and view a situation from their position. In business and life, many interactions benefit from perspective-taking by creating the basis of understanding between people. This conscious attempt to understand another's viewpoint improves interactions, reduces conflicts, and enhances creativity and innovation.
Perspective-seeking is asking others for their point of view. It is about reaching out to others and better understanding their position on a specific situation. It is about being authentically curious about hearing and learning more about their perspective. However, one should be conscious of our biases and avoid the trap of asking individuals who have the same opinion as ours to validate a decision we want to make.
Seeking differing perspectives that challenge our own has excellent benefits.
1) Improves collaboration and builds strong teams
The key to more-productive collaboration between stakeholders starts with first seeing a situation through someone else’s eyes and second by asking them for their take on a situation. People are more likely to collaborate when they feel heard and understood.
Collaborative problem-solving has several advantages over individual problem-solving. Applying diverse perspectives and experiences in any given situation can help you avoid problems, generate better solutions and ideas, and make better decisions.
Employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work Collaboration underpins how strong teams work together and, when done brilliantly, can drive productivity and strengthen competitive advantage.5
“The value of your company is equal to the sum of the problems you can solve.”Martin Lorentzon, co-founder of Spotify
2) Builds empathy and fosters inclusiveness.
Empathy is our ability to comprehend and empathize with the feelings and experiences of another and to understand other people’s viewpoints.
When you seek the perspective of others, you understand them and their thought process, creating empathy. Empathy is essential to emotional intelligence and team building; it boosts cultural awareness and improves your capacity to connect with people, fostering inclusiveness and building a happy team.
Josh Bersin’s (a renowned Global HR Industry expert) research indicates that inclusive companies are 170% more likely to be innovation leaders in their market. 6
This more profound understanding of each other reduces bias, helps prevent and resolve conflicts, improves communication, strengthens relationships and creates more engagement.
Research shows that well-connected teams demonstrate a 21% increase in profitability. 7
3) Ignites creativity
Many essential things you do in life require you to understand the world from someone else’s point of view. For example, you give better directions to others if you can see the world from their vantage or craft more persuasive arguments if you see their standpoint.
Creativity involves divergent thinking – you must find several ways to approach a particular problem or situation. Developing unique ideas typically requires looking at objects and situations from multiple perspectives.
When you combine the perspective of a diverse team who see the same thing differently, they come together in novel ways, opening doors to innovation, and improving overall creativity.
Neuroscience suggests taking the perspective of others; it not only provides us with additional information about complex situations it also activates brain regions linked with creativity and innovation.8
4) Promotes Wellness and Mindfulness.
Life has its ups and downs, and given how busy it is, it can be challenging to keep things in perspective and see the good that sits alongside the bad or the greys amongst the black and white.
When we experience stress for a significant period, it can affect our perspective and can create a negative bias. Therefore, we end up focusing on the worst-case scenario in any situation.9
We look at the glass as half empty, not half full. Unintentionally we focus on all the things that do not work out and miss out on some of the beautiful things happening around us. This can leave us feeling that everything is wrong. Your stress can prevent you from being mindful to enjoy the moment.
Stress can also prevent you from having successful personal and professional relationships. Perspective-taking brings mindfulness of compassion and empathy for ourselves and our relationships.
There are wellness benefits in the workplace as well. As per Gallup’s research, the teams that rank among the top 20% in connectedness have a 41% reduction in absenteeism, and 59% fewer workers leave the company. Staff who feel heard and understood want to give their best and contribute to their company’s success. 7
While we all have biases, the good news is that we can improve our perspective-taking ability with practice. A 2020 survey by the Wharton Neuroscience Initiative (WiN) indicated that leaders who had completed several perspective-taking training sessions before the COVID-19 pandemic reported that they were better able to respond to remote and distributed work necessitated by social distancing measures, the ability to solve problems and make decisions improved, as did inclusion, cross-collaboration, and risk management.8
So actively, take and seek perspective to build a connected team, and improve workplace collaboration, creativity, inclusiveness, and wellness.
Mazarine is an artist, mindfulness practitioner and author of Mysteries In Colour, the art workbook, and Mysteries In Colour, social playshops and corporate workshops that utilize Pareidolia, a psychological phenomenon.