How Adopting Multiple Perspectives Gives You an Edge in Business
When most individuals look at a problem, they tend to think of it from their own perspective. And not everybody is qualified to have a perspective or opinion on every issue. Perspectives are commonly ideologically and emotionally rooted and shaped by values, culture, their present state of mind, and any assumptions they use to derive what they believe. And when people are led by their ideological inclinations, this can lead to conflict. In many business scenarios, much of this would be avoidable if people were to understand what the other person or party wants or is trying to achieve, and is entirely focused on what’s true.
You must look within for value, but must look beyond for perspective.
Adopting multiple perspectives – your own, the other party’s or other individual’s, other believable people you seek out who has earned the right to have an opinion on the topic, and the perspective of what channels behavior through customs, mores, “rules of conduct,” and other such matters that play into motivations and incentives – is an important leadership skill. It can also lead to better business outcomes.
For example, in business negotiations, it is important to understand what the other side wants most. What are they likely to ask for, and what can we do to meet their needs by giving them what they want so they are more likely to help us in return, and in a way that’s at least commensurate with what we are willing to sacrifice?
Business is fundamentally about providing value. Customers will pay for a product or service offered if they believe the value is there to make the transaction. Therefore, listening to customers and pleasing customers is essentially the top goal in running your business. Businesses are self-interested, but more than any other factor, it is the pursuit of self-interest that motivates people and businesses to do the challenging things that both reward them and contribute to the greater benefit of society. Consequently, society tends to reward those who give it what it wants. This is why how much profit a business has earned is an approximate measure of the extent to which they gave society what it wants.
Most conflicts in business tend to be between employees of the same company. If you are a manager, you will inevitably run into issues with employees that necessitate resolution. It is important to keep in mind what the employee wants and what they are likely to be most apprehensive about. As a manager or owner of the business, your perspective is naturally going to be centered around your margins, the replacement value of the employee including training costs, their performance, and effectiveness within their respective role. From the employee’s perspective, he or she is likely predominantly focused on compensation and benefits considerations.
Compare what you personally think from your perspective and compare that to the perspective of the employee. Do these perspectives differ? If they do, is there a compromise-able solution?
Sometimes there might be. For example, an employee might want a raise and if his or her performance is commensurate with their expectations, then it may be justifiable for both parties.
On the other hand, sometimes there will not be. If an employee isn’t effective in a particular role, that individual should be moved to a different one. Those who consistently operate and perform in a certain manner will likely continue to perform that way because that pattern of behavior reflects what they’re actually like.
Keys to Developing Alternative Perspectives
Fundamentally, you need to have the open-mindedness to seek out other perspectives for this to work. For some this is easy, for others it is much less so. For some, it might become easier over time if life experiences dictate that seeking outside perspectives is important.
For instance, if one is an investor and very convinced that they know what they’re doing and an event comes along that entirely invalidates their pre-existing perspective, this may encourage them, albeit through a harsh learning experience, that seeking alternative opinions from smart, believable people is a highly worthwhile endeavor. To make this work, one has to be genuinely curious about listening and learning from alternative perspectives. If someone is very intellectually or ideologically rigid and more prone to react without consideration for what’s true, it’s unlikely to work.
The biggest problem people face with seeking outside information is confirmation bias. Most people are susceptible to this, but it’s entirely backward from what’s rational. As a business person with your own capital on the line, you should want to know where you might be wrong and encourage outside perspectives to improve the odds that you’re making the right decision.
If you’re truly seeking outside perspectives, avoid simply seeking out people who agree with you. You’re unlikely to see your blind spots or consider information or angles if what you’re essentially doing is confirming your own perspective.
Moreover, if you’re an executive, understand that from employees’ perspectives, they may be hesitant to disagree with you because they fear to get on the bad side of someone who holds power over them. This is a function of corporate culture, which should ideally already be in place with principles underlying this culture that help derive the best outcomes for the company and have a way of systematically fixing and eliminating problems.
Being truthful at all costs is important to get at the root of all problems. Continual, regular, no-exception feedback is fundamental to positive training and improvement outcomes.
It is also a function of quality hiring practices. Hiring is often the most important business decision you’ll make. The new team member must share the same values as the rest of the company and fit well into the existing company structure. Hiring the right people is vital to business success.
Perspective vs. Reality
It is important for any company to place the utmost importance on truth. It is essential to distinguish between perspective and reality, which can be two completely different things. If someone has an opinion, question whether they have earned the right to have that opinion. If they have an opinion about a topic relevant to the business, is what they are saying knowledgeable or are they simply guessing or going by their particular personal persuasions or emotional biases?
To increase your odds of success, it’s important to recognize what you don’t know. Some of the most successful people are great at asking the important questions and then finding the answers. When confronted with a problem, they first consider whether they know all the important and relevant questions pertaining to it. They are as objective as possible in determining the likelihood that they have the correct answers and perspective. Moreover, they are also skilled at open-mindedly seeking credible individuals to ask in order to help them achieve this.
Managers in a company should strive to establish a culture in which everyone has the right to understand what is logical and no one has the right to hold a critical thought without being open about it.
Moreover, it is vital to encourage people how to think logically with a focus on what’s true. Provide people with your thoughts on how they might approach their tasks and/or how and why you would perform them, but don’t micromanage and tell them precisely what to do. Effective managing is mostly about frequently communicating about how they are doing their tasks and understanding why.
Also, even if perspectives are credible, logical, and accurate they can vary wildly in what they’re saying. Some people are much better at “bigger picture” thinking while others are more detail-oriented.
For example, in business scenarios, some employees may be better at understanding broader trends in their industry while others will be more skilled at recommending certain operational and investment maneuvers to help adapt to these expected changes. These perspectives, stemming from different skill sets and strengths/weaknesses, can naturally complement each other and help triangulate the appropriate solution.
If one is using formulas, algorithms, and/or machine learning/AI models to help you make better operational, financial, and investment decisions for your firm, it’s always important to have a firm understanding behind what these models entail.
Many firms have made bad business decisions or gone belly-up due to over-reliance on something that was supposedly objective and free from human-based error. They had sophisticated models informing them what to do, but they didn’t have a deep understanding of the cause and effect relationships. Most of the time, they fell victim to relying too heavily on what happened in the past to inform the future. And when the future ended up being different from the past and they didn’t deeply understand the logic behind what they were doing, they ran into problems.
So it brings up a consideration for those using mathematical and/or algorithmic models in their business: Do you understand the inputs and assumptions that are going into these where you can affirm that what you’re doing is logical, or are you indiscriminately following them?
Most people will say or agree that it’s important to step back and consider alternative perspectives when making decisions. But how many are truly doing this?
Are they genuinely open-minded and inquisitive about considering outside perspectives, or are they simply looking for arguments that confirm their own biases?
When they do encounter perspectives different from their own, are they viscerally rejecting it or truly considering them through the other person’s eyes to consider how accurate and logical it is?
Are they seeking out the right type of people who would know the answers to the questions they’re facing?
It’s important to consider the question of perspective relative to reality. It is essential for a manager to consider the perspectives of employees, customers, investors, or any other important entities that help make the business run effectively. But the utmost importance must be placed on truth rather than giving legitimacy to an untruth simply because of someone’s life experiences, emotional biases, ideological inclinations, and whatever else. Some customers you won’t be able to serve due to a mismatch between customers’ needs and the nature of what your business provides. Some employees won’t be right for their roles and might not work out in any part of the business for various possible reasons. Some investors are unlikely to be aligned with your goals and aims as a business.
Effective leaders know when they don’t know all the answers and will seek out believable individuals to help them get at what they’re fundamentally trying to solve.