The Importance of Perspective

One of the key elements of both critical and creative thinking is looking at a problem or issue from different angles or perspectives.

Sometimes our understanding of an issue is too vague, too ‘zoomed out’ that we cannot clearly comprehend the specifics which determine the best outcome or solution.

Sometimes we are so ‘zoomed in’ to the problem that we cannot see it clearly. ‘You cannot see the wood for the trees’ as the famous saying goes. We need a much wider frame.

Sometimes we are only looking at a problem from one perspective – often our own – and really need to consider it from the point of view of any other people involved. In these cases we often already know what we want the solution to be, but not necessarily what is should be, based on the relevant facts and context.

We all have a certain worldview, or mental model, based on our culture, upbringing and religion (if applicable). So most of us approach problems in life by looking for an explanation based on our own worldview. This is obviously a serious limitation which prevents us from seeing problems (and potential solutions) from perspectives outside our own. If all you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail.

Considering the perspectives of others is a brilliant way to remove blind prejudices, unfair self-interest and to overcome inaccurate stereotyping. This is especially true when we consider different cultural contexts. It also allows our perception to be less riddled with questionable dogma.

Our careers influence the way we see the world around us too. If we asked a maths teacher for an explanation of an event, we are almost certainly going to hear a different approach to that of a vicar, or that of a neurologist, or that of a musician.

That to not to say that any of the explanations given are wrong, but that we can gain a better understanding of the event by combining multiple expert understandings from different fields and put them together to form a more complete picture.

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