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September 18,2019 Facilitating Innovation

Applying Multiple Perspectives

Applying Multiple Perspectives

Explained

Apple has always prided itself as being the technology company that was designed for the user. Their user-friendliness has led to significant growth in market share while also overtaking the mobile communications segment. Their design team is highly regarded in their field and they are renown for their use of customer feedback sessions. However, Steve Jobs was the catalyst that made the user face so successful. He performed the role of the third window for multiple perspectives by pushing his design team continuously to achieve simplicity. This helped push the team into new insights and greater user experience.

Simple problems require simple solutions, which can be resolved by a single individual. Complex problems that require deep solutions have high intricacies and systematic impacts. Therefore, complex issues require multiple domain experts. While this adds additional expertise to the team, it also adds multiple layers of different ways to see the problem.

A camel is a horse designed by a committee is an age-old maxim. This quip degrades the effect that a committee makes on designing through tradeoffs and negotiations. Using multiple perspectives, however, is the employment of meritocracy and not the employment of committee design. The intent is for a team to challenge one another, to place the solution emphasis on the problem. Jockeying for a political position is absent and the goal to create the overall best solution possible is never in doubt.

Importance

One person varies from another person. They have had different life experiences and see the world differently. Customers land in this same category of having different mindsets than product designers. Bringing in multiple perspectives enables empathy, uncovers blind spots, and designs more effective solutions. Different impacts are understood and a systematic approach is applied instead of a linear approach.

Multiple perspectives provide well-rounded solutions. Thus, incorporating the thoughts, perspectives, and insights of a diverse cohort, solutions that solve for a greater mass will be enacted. Hiring for diversity has been many things. Diversity hiring has been controversial, a political flashpoint, and a lipservice buzzword. However and more importantly, diversity hiring is a competitive advantage as it brings different perspectives to an organization. Breaking up a homogenous work environment brings forward new ideas which represent the roadmap to the companies second act.

Recently researchers have been exploring the myth of expertise. Specifically their findings have uncovered that once a professional achieves a level of expertise in their field, they are more likely to become less proficient and productive. This is due in part to their growth in ego and overconfidence. For example, it was found that there are better cardiovascular health outcomes if the surgery takes place at the same time as a cardiovascular conference. The implication is that the surgeries during these periods are not performed by specialists but by generalists. As generalists, they are forced to slow down to follow specific procedures that are in line with the most current best practices. The overarching finding is that experts reach a certain level of understanding and then stunt their growth. They quit learning and fail to incorporate new perspectives to grow their expertise.

Practical Applications

  • Evaluate your team. Does everyone look alike, did they all go to the same school and have similar life experiences. Stop hiring for cultural fit and start hiring for cultural disruption.
  • Employ cross-pollination tactics. Rotate different team members into the group, share your team’s ideas and strategies with different functional groups, and artificially infuse multiple perspectives into your brainstorming process.
  • Incorporate agile feedback loops. These feedback loops can be with your boss, another team, or preferably the customer. They will be able to rapidly add new insights into your creative process.

Lady Bic Pen

Societe Bic, or commonly known as Bic has produced disposable consumer products since 1954. They have championed products such as the disposable lighter, razors, and the pen. In the late 2000s, their analytics pointed to lagging numbers with women purchasing pens. Consequently, Bic leadership took action by having an all-male design team create the Lady Bic. The team created a pink pen with specifically created comfort grips for her.

For months after the release of the product, publicity was still insignificant. Then marketing released the Lady Bic commercial with the tag line of, “Look like a girl, think like a man.” Very quickly viral internet posts railed against the product, the company, and the lack of perspective. Popular daytime host, Ellen DeGeneres joked frequently on how blatantly sexist this product was. In the end, the company’s inability to bring in multiple perspectives led to a public relations disaster and loss of company loyalty.

References

Epstein, D. (2019). Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World. New York: Riverhead Books.

Finkelstein, S. (2019). Blinded by Your Own Expertise. Harvard Business Review.

Isaacson, W. (2011). Steve Jobs. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Pixar Headquarters and the Legacy of Steve Jobs. (2019, July 28). Retrieved from Office Snapshots: https://officesnapshots.com/2012/07/16/pixar-headquarters-and-the-legacy-of-steve-jobs/

Watson, M. (2018). Common Strategies and Practices Among Facilitators of Innovative Thinking in Organizations. Ann Arbor, MI: ProQuest.

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