Perspective taking – The problems you are able to solve will decide your future and success.

Take any theory that aims to help you solve a complex problem and you will find Perspective taking at the core. As examples; all innovation theories starts with understanding the Perspective of an end-user and every negotiation theory I have seen revolves around understanding the perspective of the other party. Perspective taking is at the core of collaboration, teaming and Collective intelligence, and all dialogue models (regardless of if the aim is to solve a business opportunity or a marital problem) are based around understanding another person’s perspective. The list goes on and on, and the more you think of it, the more mindblowing it is that we are not training this skill more. 

If you think that you are already using perspective taking to it’s full potential, perhaps you want to think again. Focused Perspective Taking is something very different from considering another persons perspective. You need to move beyond the old metaphor “put your self in someone else’s shoes” and instead imagine what it is like to be that other person (with their strengths, weaknesses, motivations, past experiences etc.) walking in her/his shoes. This is a skill you can train and control (here is a link to a tool I developed for Wharton business school that you can use to get started). It is also a skill that we as humans are very unlikely to use in the situations where it is most useful (conflict, challenge and disagreement etc.), but once you learn when and how to switch into perspective taking you will quickly start making better informed decisions, solve complex problems, come up with better ideas and create engagement in your team and organisation.

I have helped scaleup executives, leaders at incumbents and government organisations build this skill and if you take the training seriously the impact is massive. In the Harvard case study “Leading culture change at SEB” written by Professor Amy Edmondson you can read about the effect we created when we trained Perspective Taking and the other Leadership Backbone skills in a multinational bank.

Again, there is a huge difference between considering someone’s point of view, and focused perspective taking. Focused perspective taking will elevate your decision making ability in a transformative way. 

If you want to start improving your perspective taking skills right now check out this nano-tool I developed for Wharton@work together with professor Michael Platt and his fantastic team at Wharton Neuroscience Initiative.