Tuesday, July 15, 2008

OFG VI: Perspective

Today, the OFG brings you an experiment in perspective. It has long been my opinion that we would agree with each other far more often than we do if we first determined what the facts were regarding the parameters framing the situation.

The fatal flaw for many of us is assuming, without any attempt at verification, that we all see the same thing when we look at an object, or examine a situation, or consider a problem. Often, the end result is predetermined by the mistakes made before the negotiations even begin: if you don't agree beforehand how things are right now, how can you possibly agree on the changes to make things better?

I have a very easy demonstration of this fallacy for you today.

First, consider this image.

Now, ponder this: are the letters projected out from the base surface, or are the letters indented or below the base surface? I want you to form an opinion now, before continuing through to the next step.

Next, take a look at the image again, only this time I am pointing out the direction from which the light source is coming to generate the shadows you see next to the letters.

Ah! Now we all know, don’t we? But wait! What if others in your group, your decision-making group, were shown a different version of the same image, with the light source demonstrated to be coming from exactly the opposite direction of the one you saw? If you are presented only this evidence, the image below, what is your conclusion about the nature of the letters?

Raised, or imbedded?

Would you be as sure if you had only the first image, with the light source coming from the lower-right area of the image?

Even more challenging, what if, as the leader of this group, you were shown *both* images, and told by separate factions that each considered its own interpretation to be an absolute, divinely inspired illustration of the universe, and could not be modified in any way?

If we cannot, first, agree on the current state of affairs, we have little hope of moving in a positive direction from where we are. After all, until we agree upon where we are, how will we know which direction to point the boat?

Coming soon--the next OFG installment will deal with our first reader-requested topic (thanks, Olivia!): how do we deal with the people in our personal lives who are the very embodiment of where good times go to die, particularly when escape from them is made impossible by family entanglement?


Olivia said...

I thought of an alternate view of this...if people just will not, will not see things clearly, and are emotionally invested in seeing things from opposite views, they can still move towards a common goal. It will be harder, but it can be done.

Of course this is harder with a team, but I'm thinking of it with a marriage. It might work with a larger team, though. Whenever there is a problem, LoveHubbie wants there to be an attribution of blame and then an agreement established with his story about this blame, which is based upon his reality. This takes time, and usually most people disagree with the story because it usually portrays them in a way they disagree with.

After going through this with minor and major problems ad infinitum, I decided that I'd take the blame forever, for every single thing that ever happens, no matter who is involved, and we could agree upon it in advance, and then we could immediately move toward solutions. It would save time, my ego was not threatened with the blame, and it would save hours of conversation with unpalatable story lines. We could move immediately into problem-solving and working together to make things flow.

It works only fairly well, though, as LoveHubbie finds some relief in the storytelling. Still, I like the approach.

If you've got someone who absolutely cannot take responsibility---their ego is way too frail---and they never, ever will, and they are a part of your team, what do you do? First of course, see if they can agree about the problem or the way things are now. Maybe it will work. If not, and this is a pattern, maybe the kindest thing is to see if you can get agreement about where the project needs to go.

So the letters are raised or imbedded. But how do we want the letters? How do they need to be? If you can't establish agreement about that, then I don't know where you go...

Just some thoughts from YFD (Your Depressed Friend)...

Love, YFD

Rick Hamrick said...

I agree, O, that folks can agree to disagree. That's still an agreement of sorts, and a recognition of the difference in vision of the two parties.

My larger concern are those times when neither party has a clue that they differ!

Certainly, surfacing the issues can lead to a better result, and I agree with you that you can end up moving toward a common goal.

I find your illustration of the "assignment of blame" segment of the game to be one I am familiar with! In the technology area, where folks like me help the company we work for use computers to make their lives easier (talk about a well-disputed conclusion!), there is a well-known description of the software project life cycle. It goes something like this:

determination of specifications





determination of the guilty

persecution of the innocent

bonuses for all senior execs (this step is actually included in all projects, whether IT-related or not)

Olivia said...


Aside, Rick, I've nominated you for a Brilliante Weblog...I know you've been nominated again, but it was unavoidable! See my blog for more info! xxoo, O