The power of perspectives

A couple of years ago, I spent a couple of years helping people to become better leaders, managers and consultants. During that time I was able to pick up such a vast repertoire of tools and techniques that it sometimes surprises me how much stuck with me. (The crappy hours and frequent trips to dull places across the British Isles, thankfully, are less memorable).
One of the people I follow on Twitter put out a request yesterday for ideas for facilitating a session of 15 people. It reminded me of a particularly powerful technique – multiple perspective brainstorming.
It seems that many of us, when confronted by a particular problem, end up staring and staring and, because we tend to be so intrinsically caught up in the day-to-day challenges of the problem, feel unable to identify solutions (or often even unable to clearly articulate what the problem is in the first place). However, given somebody else's problem, we are often all to eager to propose “what you should do is…”
Given that tendency, multiple perspective brainstorming helps people to work at a challenge outside of their normal frames of reference. A simple example…
Imagine that you have decided that you organisation's website just isn't doing anything useful at the moment. A creative brainstorming session might come up with a whole load of ideas, but not necessarily any great insight. Split your creative thinkers into three groups, say, and ask one to look at what would make a great site from one of your clients' perspective, one from that of one of your suppliers', and one from that of a current or prospective employee. I guarantee that this approach will give insights that wouldn't have arisen if everyone attacked the problem from their usual frame of reference.
If you struggle to identify what perspectives to approach the problem from, the client/supplier/staff ones are often a good starting bet, or alternatively de Bono's thinking hats can come in handy. After that, usual brainstorming rules apply…

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