What problems do you solve for others? How can you create better solutions to their problems? And, most importantly, what’s getting on your way? Our experience has taught us that the biggest challenge in solving a problem might be you, or rather your perspective — the biased way in which you see the world- and which might hinder the discovery of fresh solutions.

We conduct many innovation workshops with various entities helping organizations adopt new perspectives. By borrowing a fresh pair of eyes, as I like to say, people learn how to challenge established beliefs and create unexpected solutions.

“become more mindful about your own perspective, experiment with new lenses”

Our approach is simple: become more mindful about your own perspective, let go of it and experiment with new lenses. We help individuals and teams go through this mind-changing journey through coaching, collaborative workshops and firsthand experiences. Here are some tips for getting started that I’ve tried personally, not just with other people:

  1. Walk in someone else’s shoes: empathy is a great way to see a problem with another pair of eyes. It goes beyond understanding someone else’s feeling to actually experiencing their emotional journey. Once, working on a project to fight food disparity, I lived as a homeless for one day. The experience was moving and revealing. I felt the suffering of a homeless person, as it was mine. I learned that, for homeless people, there’s something more precious than food and clothes, that is, dignity.
  2. Limit yourself: adding an artificial constraint might seem counter intuitive to problem solving, yet limiting our ability to do what is taken for granted is, in fact, liberating. As part of another experiment, I was blindfolded for 20 minutes. Walking and doing other regular activities with my eyes closed was scary, to say the least, but ended opening up new perspectives that I’d normally overlook.
  3. Seek for outside inspiration: being too close to a problem often blinds our ability to solve it. Distance yourself from the challenge at stake by looking for inspiration in analogous places and consider how others have solved “similar” challenges. For example, if you are trying to improve a car washing service, think of other things that are normally washed: hair, clothes, dogs, streets, etc. Focus on the notions of “cleaning,” “washing,” “laundry,” “drying,” “removing the ugly,” and so on. Then create new connections with car washing.
  4. If you can’t beat the problem, join it: rather than walking away from your emotional connection with a problem, take advantage of it. Become the problem. How do you feel now that the challenge you are trying to solve is you? What would that problem say about you? What others think of you? What would you say to yourself? Replacing a logical problem-solving approach with an emotional one is a powerful way to get unstuck.
  5. Add fresh perspectives: bringing people that are unusual suspects, like children, to our innovation sessions are an effective way to challenge perspectives. I remember an event when, helping a client boost morale and team building, one of our team members brought a sports coach. He was there not to give the usual speech or inspirational talk, but to actively participate in research and brainstormings. His perspective on how sports teams deal with defeat was eye opening.
  6. Get lost: many times we are so obsessed with solving a problem that we get stuck. Trying to “control” it, the problem ends up controlling us. Getting lost in other activities, letting go of control or exploring places without a GPS are some ways to build an outsider awareness. When you return to the problem you will see it differently.
  7. Let others take the driver’s seat: by definition, managers want to manage, but organizational hierarchy might hamper creative problem solving, as the perspective of the “boss” ends up controlling the conversation. Is the way you see the world limiting possibilities? Then be more mindful about it. Let others’ perspectives emerge. Listen, enjoy the drive and let others do the talk.

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This post was previously published at the Chicago Ideas Week blog: http://blog.chicagoideas.com/chicago_voices/want-to-change-the-game-start-with-your-perspective/

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