Teaching Thinking through Changing Perspective
One of the ways you can help people to improve their thinking skills is to ask them to change their perspective on a topic. To think about it from another point of view. This is very easy to do in a training situation – since we have folks captive and can ask them to try an activity in a way they are not naturally inclined to.
Unfortunately, we often miss this opportunity in training and instead ask our participants to answer a question based on their own perspective or opinion.
For example, how often does your training program ask something along the lines of: Now that you have read the case study, what are the three main factors affecting the situation? Since people respond with their own opinion, we never tell them that they are wrong, of course (nor are they wrong), but do we ever conduct “round 2” of the questioning / debrief and ask the learners, What if you were the banker, contractor, pilot in the situation? THEN what would you say are the three most important factors?
Here are two techniques for getting people to change their perspective on a topic:
1. Collaboration – having learners work in groups is an easy and natural way to hear more than one perspective. Some care needs to be given to structuring the collaborative activity so that “minority viewpoints” aren’t ignored; perhaps rewarding the group with the most perspectives? or the most unique perspective?
2. Suggest the other viewpoint – credit here goes to MindGym and Sebastian Bailey for this simple exercise presented at a conference in 2015. In this type of activity you’ll tell the learner exactly the perspective you want them to take. Bailey’s exercise went like this: Close your eyes and picture your living room for :30 seconds. Now, picture it again, from the perspective of an interior designer. Again, think of your living room, from this perspective, for :30 seconds. Once more, think of your living room, and this time from the perspective of a robber. What are your insights? What do you see differently? What ah-ha moments
have you had? What did you “see” as the interior decorator that you didn’t see before? What about from the perspective of the robber?
Interestingly, asking people to change the way they view a situation is something that develops with maturity. It is almost impossible to ask anyone under the age of 18 to change their perspective on a situation. Once someone IS able to look at things from various points of view however, it is wise to continually build that muscle, it will expand their thinking abilities in all areas of their life.