The Power of Different Perspectives
My wife and I are very different people. She spends her time caring for patients as a nurse, while I focus on opening new business relationships. Despite our differences, she has opened my eyes to new things… one of which is art. A few years ago, we visited the MET and the Guggenheim in New York and actually grew up visiting the ROM in Toronto. I do not profess to be an art expert, but there are several lessons art has taught us. Art has taught us that there are multiple mediums that can be used to convey a message, there really isn’t a right or wrong way to interpret art and that art is subjective. Another aspect of art that has translated to my business and personal life is the importance of perspective and considering different vantage points.
In fact, first-year medical students at Yale University are required to take an art course. Initially, this requirement might sound odd. However, after learning how to look for the intricate details in artwork, the student then attempts to diagnose patients. By cross training their brain to look at the finer points in art, they were able to increase detection of crucial medical details by 10%! Similarly, almost all of my peers who graduated from the University of Toronto Business program took art or some form of art as an elective. Perhaps we thought it was an easy course. In hindsight, it was done to give our brains a break from doing business valuations or negotiations to learning to use our brains in a different way. Whether in business, medicine or essentially every aspect of our lives, having multiple vantage points opens the mind. In doing so, these vantage points multiply the opportunities for success.
In addition, demonstrating awareness of other people’s points of view can essentially short circuit frustration in others’ brains. For example, in my business, the year-end tends to be hectic as it includes a whirlwind of transactions, negotiations and filings. During this time, we are often pressed for time to make deadlines. In many cases, I rely on the help of my already overworked team. This is an opportunity for me to exercise empathy and emotional intelligence. Offering some acknowledgment such as “I know there is a lot on your plate and can imagine how overwhelmed you must be. I appreciate all that you are doing!” quiets down the employee’s anxiety and emotional centers in their brain. It activates the prefrontal cortex and stimulates a more positive and willing mindset. I have found that despite the heightened stress, showing that I understand their perspective energized my team and increased their commitment to their work. When we empathize with others, we are essentially shifting our perspectives.
Life will put us in countless situations and interactions. Like Art, there are multiple ways to interpret a piece, execute a technique or deliver a message. Since perspective is everything, practicing an open mind and considering different points of view will open a world of experiences and opportunities (that you may not have discovered on your own?). One will find that the best ideas emerge when different perspectives meet. This is your advantage over executing a great idea over a good idea. It can distinguish between exercising leadership versus management. Finally, accepting other perspectives can allow you to change a circumstance rather than allowing it to change you. That in itself is a work of art!