Over the last few weeks, I have become increasingly interested in how it is possible for situations, experiences and organisations to be viewed through multiple different perspective, and how different conclusions can be made whilst using those perspectives.
For example, in our recent move to the beautiful national park of Dartmoor, I have rediscovered the importance of getting outside and appreciating the landscape and these are some of the major reasons of why I want to live here. However, those who have lived here their whole lives view the environment here differently- not that they are taking it for granted but are seeing it in a different way; for them, they make their living from land, watching ‘outsiders’ come to live here.
The current COVID-19 crisis can also be viewed from different perspectives. A number of different conversations have evolved, including discussions about health, the economy, inequality, the environment, our learning and viewing it as an opportunity to provoke change.
I am struck by how strong all of these different perspectives are; how is it possible for me to assume one is more “correct” than the other if all are delivered with the same gusto and determination?
I have also considered the ways in which each of the perspectives above, and our own perspectives on all issues, may be self reinforcing. In attempts to challenge myself on this, I have asked myself the following questions:
- In what ways does my current and historical thinking mean that I only make sense of situations through that lens?
- What ideas might I have that act to reinforce my perspectives, which in turn may reinforce my ideas?
- Do I have a tendency to close down other perspectives if I believe they do not make sense from within my own?
In my youth, I experienced the world and my relationships primarily through the medium of emotions and my actions were informed, driven and nuanced by the emotional lens I was viewing the world through.
“Because I experience these emotions, because they are strong and real, they must be valid.”
At least that was my understanding at the time. Yet, although it was part of my personality, it was only one way of viewing the world. Over time, I have realised that my perspectives have changed, that I believe that I am not my emotions or my thoughts (I feel and I think), they are things that I experience. They do not necessarily sum up me.
Through this exploration I have realised, although I have worked with different viewpoints in my work, how caught up I can become in my own “world view”.
Part of my independent learning has revolved around Integral Spirituality (Ken Wilber), in which the idea of “4 quadrants” through which we view the world has been developed (subjective, intersubjective, objective, interobjective). These will be explored further in a follow up article.
In summary, these “quadrants” are self-inclusive and self-confirming ways of thinking which influence the way in which we process ideas and decide on the validity of the ideas, either rejecting them or incorporating them into our way of thinking.
How do these “quadrants” influence the way an individual or organisation exists?
“Quadrants” are self-resolving, meaning that the ideas which constitute a “quadrant” only make sense within the lens that way of thinking creates.
However, through another lens, the ideas presented by that same “quadrant” may not appear to make sense. In example, for an organisation, viewing the welfare of staff through the lens of the pursuit of profit would not appear to be compatible, and vice versa.
Yet by criticising another “quadrant”, do we lose aspects unique to that way of thinking?
What would it be like if, in attempts to understand and make a completely integrated decision, we viewed the “quadrants” from within themselves, as opposed to viewing them from within our own preferred “quadrant”, taking an objective perspective on all “4 quadrants”? By understanding the lens through which a decision has been made, how does this allow us to understand the decision itself?
This goes further than simply understanding the reasons behind why a decision has been made; it involves shifting our very perspective of an idea and existing within another form of thinking, through which we view all “quadrants” as having equal value and ‘validity’.
For me, this feels like an important yet challenging personal journey I would like to embark upon. The concepts discussed above will be explored in a separate article, where I delve into more detail into this concept, and is heavily influenced by ideas from Peter Senge, Ken Wilber (as mentioned above) and Michael Oakeshott, among others.
In the meantime, there are many useful questions that we could ask ourselves:
- From what place do I start addressing problems, challenges and experiences? What examples can I think of?
- What are the other aspects that I could objectively access to develop my approach?
- How may my current way of thinking be self-perpetuating, both in the ideas that are developed and the problems that are created?
This is more than simply valuing difference- it’s about integrating difference.