When a difficult problem arises in the workplace, pretty much anyone would appreciate a magic bullet that would solve it quickly and effectively. Although magic bullets are hard to come by, and most people will tell you there are none, there is one standout factor that ensures a smoother problem-solving process through the power of diverse thinking and ideas: that X-factor is diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
By inviting multiple perspectives for consideration, DEI reveals the vantage points and experiences of a wide range of people. Those diverse perspectives, which will undoubtedly be different from yours, will allow you to view a challenge, strategy or idea differently, anew. Any strategy or idea can be improved by thinking about it in a new way.
Considering multiple perspectives — that is, looking at a goal, a skills gap, a partially realized idea or a fully-formed idea from viewpoints different from your own — helps you view learners’ pain points and needs in a new light, which as a learning leader, will help you deliver more impactful programs.
Each learner begins their career journey from a different vantage point, with their own perspectives and worldview shaped by their education, experiences, communities, friend groups and families. This means that we each see business problems, and solutions, through a personal lens, which colors how we see the world — and ourselves — in it. On the plus side, unequivocally, your own perspective contributes to your unique identity. However, when viewing a business problem, strategy or idea solely through one’s own lens might narrow the realm of possible solutions to complex problems. One definition of this idea of perspective taking is “…the active cognitive process of imagining the world from another’s vantage point or imagining oneself in another’s shoes to understand their visual viewpoint, thoughts, motivations, intentions and/or emotions.”
One 2019 study explains that, during the creative problem-solving process, “…when students reported using the perspective-taking strategy, they tended to develop more original and useful responses and provide more elaboration.”
In business and training, perspective-taking is a salient construct. Making inferences, relying on stereotypes and tropes, and depending upon one’s own perception of others’ needs, wants and ways of thinking are not productive means and might lead people to ineffective solutions.
Delivering learning solutions rooted in multiple perspectives from a diverse and inclusive group allows learners to develop as an informed team prepared to tackle critical and creative thinking challenges. Perspective taking encourages understanding the unique thought worlds of different communities of knowing.
By considering things you didn’t think to consider before, you will assuredly find ideas of greater value to both your learners and the business. Fresh perspectives also lead to additional questions. By asking more questions and considering the answers of people from diverse backgrounds, you broaden your scope as a training professional, leading you to develop more innovative solutions.
Here are three key questions to ask that lead to worthwhile ideas:
- What goal can I set to deliver the most equitable and effective training for everyone?
- Is there a viewpoint that I hadn’t considered before I considered multiple perspectives?
- Is there a solution that is more equitable for all learners?
DEI also combats groupthink — that is, the conformity that happens when similar people, who might be unfamiliar with outside perspectives, work in a group. A team or a community of similar people tend to think similarly and might not bring anything dissenting or challenging to a discussion. If you view the three questions above from other perspectives, you will begin to see how factors such as age, gender identity, neurodivergence, culture, race, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomics or community-related characteristics might affect and ultimately amplify your ideas. Not only will you benefit from unfamiliar perspectives from a diverse group, but also you likely gain problem-solving input as well. When you augment your thinking with DEI, you will find valuable insights into other people that will lead you to more significant ideas and innovations for your training programs.
Consider what these top leaders are saying about the importance of innovation and perspective-taking:
- The need for innovation to grow, compete, and transform has never been greater — and we believe diversity is essential to driving this innovation, Julie Sweet, chief executive officer at Accenture North America, said.
- “Diversity is the engine of invention. It generates creativity that enriches the world,” said Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada in a speech on “The Canadian Opportunity″ in 2016.
- “Lead with empathy: It’s a quality that we undervalue as a society, but often one of the biggest challenges in regards to crisis or conflict is that we rarely understand the existence or the experience in another [person’s] shoes. Often, times are so busy, that we don’t take a moment to step back and see how it affects those with less privilege or power than we do. So, I’d ask [world leaders] to lead with empathy,” said Sinead Burke, academic, writer and advocate for disability and design said in 2018, during a conversation on fostering inclusivity.
- “Diversity and inclusion, which are the real grounds for creativity, must remain at the center of what we do,” Marco Bizzarri, CEO of Gucci,
How can you incorporate perspective taking into your role as a training leader?
- To investigate other people’s perspectives, use a journalist’s basic toolkit. Consider the who, what, where, how and why.
- Encourage dialogue, not debate. During discourse, adopt the view of a business alliance, not combative factions.
- Solicit pain points from learners and stakeholders. Ask, what challenges are you experiencing and how can training help?
- Listen and learn.
And at the end of the day, remember the goal of multiple perspective-taking: Whether you’re a team of one or part of a broader learning function, viewing training from a DEI lens will amplify creative thinking and, as a result, amplify the business impact of training.