Yesterday I happened down a road I drive on occasionally. I typically take the road northbound as a shortcut to a particular destination. But yesterday I found myself driving south on the same road and barely recognized it. In fact, I had to turn to my wife and ask if we were on the right road. The surroundings seemed unfamiliar to me despite the fact that I travel on the road a couple of times each month.
It dawned on me that if you change the angle from which you look, you might see things you’ve never seen before. Swiss comedian and artist Ursus Wehrli once said, “I like to turn things upside down, to watch pictures and situations from another perspective.” Maybe that is what each one of us needs to do as we struggle with problems and issues in the workplace. Step back and find a new perspective, and maybe you’ll come up with a different solution.
The problems we face each day aren’t new. How many issues arise in your average week that no one has ever faced before? My guess is few, if any. So it’s likely that you’re dealing with issues someone else has resolved successfully. Seek those people out. Ask them what they did and how it worked. What were the pluses and the minuses of their approach? Learn from those who have been where you are and have successfully navigated the situation.
And what about the problems that are truly new or unique? How do you handle issues that many others are dealing with as well? Erwin Schrödinger, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist, said, “The task is . . . not so much to see what no one has yet seen, but to think what nobody has yet thought, about that which everybody sees.” To get a different outcome, you need to free your mind from all preconceived ideas and look at things from a different perspective. Turn the problem upside down, and maybe you’ll just free your mind.
If you agree with Friedrich Nietzsche that “there are no facts, only interpretations,” then your job is to come up with new interpretations of the age-old challenges of business. Quit approaching the same problems the same way. None less than Albert Einstein said, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Is that what you’re doing every day as you deal with the same challenges time and time again?
Many of you may have seen this illustration:
Do you see an old woman or a young lady when you look at it? It’s all a matter of perspective. They’re both in there if you look hard enough. But how many people would find one or the other and stop looking. They see one and believe they have the answer to the question. Sometimes you need to keep looking to find the right answer!
In the movie Dead Poets Society, there’s a scene in which the teacher, John Keating, climbs up on his desk. He stands on his desk and asks, “Why do I stand up here? Anybody?” One of the boys in the class answers him, “To feel taller!” Keating responds, “No! . . . I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.” Maybe it’s time to stand on your desk and look at things differently. Who knows what you might see!