Choose new views - or lose

The start of a new year offers a chance for transformation for businesses, and Phil Preston writes there is substantial proven benefits in building a diversity of perspectives.

We use the phrase 'can’t see the wood for the trees' when our vision is clouded or blinkered from reality. If we had to name all the positive attributes that we possess as individuals, there’s a good chance that our own view is going to be clouded and quite different from someone else’s.

Having an outside-in view to complement our inside-out view is invaluable. The same is true when assessing the strengths and weaknesses of organisations. When we own, manage or work for an organisation, it is a dominant part of our lives and we start to see things through a coloured lens. We are also emotionally involved in the business.

Getting an external perspective is very valuable because that person will see things much more objectively than you do. The problems experienced at Nokia have been attributed to a lack of diversity in the composition of its board; a wider range of views could have made all the difference.

In the programs I run and consulting work that I do, I find that my experience and independence puts me in a position to provide that perspective. I don’t pretend to understand every intricacy of the business in question because that’s impossible to do when coming in from the outside, but then again, I don’t need to, as the value stems from having a diversity of views.

Whether its dealing with small firms or enterprises that have relatively little time or capacity to research organisational trends, or larger companies of non-profit entities that need to increase their ‘agility’, there is a substantial benefit in providing this perspective.

Invariably my clients find the process to be transformational, changing their view of who they are and how they relate to the outside world.

Here’s a couple of things you can do:

- Recall an organisation you’ve worked for in the past – how did your view change after you’d left?

- How useful would that viewpoint have been at the time?

- List the key strengths that you believe your current organisation has and then ask one of your key suppliers or customers to give their opinion. It is always interesting to compare the results.

When we lose someone or something, we also use the saying 'you don’t know what you’ve got 'til its gone'. That is because familiarity dampens the visibility of assets and strengths. If someone, an independent party, would regularly remind us of those strengths, then perhaps we wouldn’t end up lamenting the loss of something we weren’t fully appreciating in the first place!

How are you going to get the perspective you need to take on 2012 with gusto?

Phil Preston is a social innovation expert who provides strategic insight into the rapidly changing business and social environment. He can be contacted on

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