Name Your Perspective

If you have spent any time with me in small group development sessions you will likely have heard me talking deliberately about perspective. I am always keen to make explicit what can often be an implied understanding or concept. Trying to name up front and from the outset assumptions we might be making is a handy habit to get into. The same is true about the perspective we might be taking towards a discussion or dialogue.

I think one of the challenges we face is in our ability to zoom in and out in terms of our thinking and when in collaboration or discussion with others.

When I say “zoom in” I mean taking heed of the “Micro” perspective, the daily grind the specific, concrete things that might be happening in the classroom. Paying attention to the “Individual” would also be common with a “Micro” perspective. With this lens we are paying less attention to the larger more abstract goals at play and focusing on the concrete decisions and actions in the classroom. When we zoom in we might be asking “How” or “What” questions.

“Zoom out” to a wide angle lens and we bring into view the “Organisation” level goals and aspirations. They might be much less concrete to allow many people to get on-board, so our perspective is more abstract. We are thinking less about ourselves and the concrete stuff that might get in the way of whole school progress. When we zoom out we ask “Why” questions to get to the drivers of our actions and decisions. We have to be more comfortable dealing in a more abstract currency.

I typically signal the perspective I am taking to help set the expectations about a particular part of a discussion. I think it helps me make explicit my choice of perspective and also allows a group to quickly appreciate the expectations that come with that perspective. Micro = details, Macro = drivers.

“Let’s zoom out for a second and consider the reason why this programme needs to change in this way.”
“If we think about a wider lens for a moment we can see that this decision fits with what we are choosing to do across the school.”
“OK now let’s zoom back into what this means in terms of the day to day. How could we explore this everyday?”
“What about the learners experience of this? Let’s jump back into the classroom for a second and consider how this concept would be evidenced in the classroom.”

In most discussions we might move fluidly between the concrete and the abstract. So perhaps start with why but keep returning to it. By doing so we continue to rationalise our actions or ideas and ensure they are connected to a bigger picture.

Perhaps the challenge is not just zooming out to think in an abstract way or zooming in to consider the concrete actions, but more precisely how effectively, fluidly and quickly we can move between those perspectives. Another layer to this is of course how synchronised our perspective is with others we are with.

By explicitly naming a perspective in dialogue we are forming good mental cues to ourselves and external cues for others to gain a better understanding. I think we can all benefit from solid thinking habits that tether our concrete ideas to the drivers and the broader rationale.

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