Fresh Eyes and Industry Eyes

During a recent meeting with my incredible Financial Services for the Poor team, I remarked how I was really looking forward to striking the balance between having Fresh Eyes and Industry Eyes in the upcoming months as one of the newer members of the team.

Fresh Eyes is all about the habit of seeing the world with a new perspective. It’s about being curious and wondering why things are the way they are, and it’s about the practice of seeing things from new angles and perspectives.

During my anthropology days, we would often use the “Anthropologist from Mars” device to really bring this concept to life. To an Anthropologist from Mars, our life here on Earth would seem incredibly new and strange, and clearly she would question the things we consider obvious and given. If you've ever taken an introductory class to sociocultural anthropology, this point was probably brought to life through reading the tale about the strange Nacirema people and their body rituals. If you haven’t, check it out here:

On the other hand, Industry Eyes is slightly different. If Fresh Eyes help you to take another look at the world and make you pause and wonder, Industry Eyes help you discover new things by revealing nuances that may not seem so obvious to the casual observer. Let me explain this with a quick story.

In my prior job at ?What If! Innovation, I spent quite some time working in the spirits industry. Whether it was traveling to Stockholm to talk about the future of vodka or trying to imagine what the next generation bar could be, I quickly and happily gained some deep subject matter expertise in this space – well beyond my frequent “research” trips to the bars in the East Village. Once I knew the ins and outs of the industry, it was as if a new language was revealed to me. I started seeing the intent behind many of the choices bar operators had made because I could now see and appreciate the details that were revealed to me through a set of Industry Eyes.

The trick is to figure out how to balance and effortlessly switch between these two mindsets. If you always look at the world with Fresh Eyes, you run the risk of only seeing shallow observations and not gaining a more nuanced and intimate understanding of your challenge. On the other hand, only seeing the world with Industry Eyes can all too quickly lead you to a myopic view of the world. It takes practice getting out of your river of thinking.

I’m currently on my way to Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania with my team for a learning trip. We’re going to meet some of our amazing partners and get a deeper understanding of how real people are interacting with mobile money. I’m looking forward to developing my Industry Eyes even more on this trip while still observing and experiencing everything with a set of eager, Fresh Eyes.

Here’s to traveling with a hungry heart!

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