Some More Ways to Help People Develop (Vertical Development) (cont. 1)

2. Colliding Perspectives

Need to be open to perspectives that are different from your own and motivated to try them and test them out.

It is most powerful when

" can orchestrate collisions between individuals who hold strongly differing opinions, values, worldviews and stages of development......create......'unnatural collisions' between people who would never usually interact, eg finance and operations, or an executive and a customer..."

Nick Petrie, 2015

The more multiple perspectives available the better.

2.1 Spend time in your customer's premises (frame-breaking experiences)

Design experiences so that people are looking through the eyes of different stakeholders - both inside and outside the organisation. This involves seeing the world through somebody else's eyes, especially for senior executives, ie walking a mile in another's shoes is informative while spending a day in their premises is transformational. Some examples

- get sales staff to spend some time in the account section so that they appreciate what happens when they make mistakes in their sales documentation, etc

- in India John Deere gets its senior executives to plant rice by hand in irrigated paddies so that they fully appreciate the benefits of using one of their tractors

- Microsoft sends out its latest software packages to important clients to test

2.2 Replace bad action learning with peer-coaching

Use action learning techniques, like peer-coaching, on real work issues that they are actually facing. This involves a process of asking each other questions about real work and real problems

Using a mixture of different backgrounds (finance, operations, marketing, HR, etc), training, worldviews, etc to bring a fresh perspective to the challenge(s).

2.3 Deep listening

Design experiences where people must suspend their own assumption and beliefs, and learn to take on and hold more perspectives.

Remember: the brain prefers to hear what reinforces our current knowledge, beliefs, etc rather than something new. Thus any new perspective tends to be rejected by the brain unless we make a concerted effort to listen to content, emotions, etc. To do this, we need to start a dialogue on difficult topics. This involves asking questions to probe different beliefs and assumptions that people hold.

"...this shift from advocating your own point of view to getting curious about others' points of view is a radical shift of many leaders..."

Nick Petrie, 2015

2.4 Polarity thinking (holding opposing ideas at the same time)

Other names for polarities are paradoxes, wicked problems, opposite strengths, chronic tension, dilemmas, contradictions, dualities & dichotomies.

Polarity is universal. It can be used to both integrate and differentiate.

Most people develop blindspots where they have a preference for one polarity and neglect others, but you need both as they are interdependent

Some polarities at an organisational level:

- flexibility vs planning

- centralisation vs decentralisation

- standardisation vs customisation

- hierarchical vs autonomy

- dictatorial vs delegation

- individual vs team

- existing offerings vs new offerings

- costs vs quality, etc.

At leadership level, some important polarities that operate in pairs include

- challenge vs support

- candour vs diplomacy

- arrogance vs humility

- continuity vs transformation

- diversity vs conformity

- unit focus vs whole organisation

- performance vs seniority

- dated-driven vs intuition

- lead vs empower

- visionary vs pragmatic

- structured vs flexible

- advocate vs enquiry

- task vs relationship

- plan vs execute

- competitive vs collaborative, etc

Need to realise that in all organisational activities there is a natural tension that can never be resolved, only managed.

"...managing polarities requires a move from either/or (black and white) thinking to both/and (shades of grey thinking)..."

Nick Petrie, 2015

This creates a great amount of tension as you are trying to get the best of all worlds.

Need to examine real organisational issues and identify the polarities that exist within them, ie their integration and isolation plus dynamic tensions within organisation. To help this, there is a 5 stage process, ie polarity map:

i) seeing the polarities (appreciate complex challenges and opportunities; see more of the whole reality; heightened awareness of polarity energy systems that can create virtuous or vicious cycles; identify opportunities to leverage the most strategic polarities for individuals, teams and organisations)

ii) mapping polarities (putting what saw in step i) into a diagram which includes the positives and negatives of the polarity plus actions and early warnings signs; akin to developing a road map, scoping, etc)

For example, centralisation vs decentralisation


  Centralisation Decentralisation


standardise processes

consistent quality in products and services

shared best practices

new and faster ways of working

innovative products and services

entrepreneurial initiative




one size does not fit all products and services

bureaucratic red tape

inefficient processes

uneven quality

customised to local requirements rather than the whole organisation

(source: Polarity Partnership, 2020)

Need to add actions and early warning signs to each quadrant so as to operationalise it.

iii) assess (involves getting a more accurate and complete picture of present realities and desired future direction; maximise stakeholders' involvement; build a shared vision, strategy and tactics; use benchmarking both inside and outside the organisation; identify areas of vulnerability that need support; modify and correct as required; need a multi-directional approach linked with 360° feedback (see elsewhere in the Knowledge Base); helps give insights)

iv) learning (quantitative data allows for qualitative dialogue; develop appropriate action plans; can dive deep into the data; identify early warning signs of something going wrong)

v) leverage (doing more with less; getting the best of all worlds)

For example, Singapore Airlines maintaining high quality of service while being a low-cost carrier.

2.5 Develop a Systems Perspective

Go beyond focusing on behaviours, influence and personality to look at systems. This will provide more perspectives and a more accurate view of how the organisation really functions.

Need to rise above the personal biases to create a higher functioning organisation

(more detail, see other parts of the Knowledge Base)


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