I was recently having a conversation with some of myÂ teammates at work around what we believe should be done to make our world moreÂ sustainable and to reduce xenophobia. My perspective was the following:
Sustainability: IÂ believe we should put all our efforts towards redesigning the way we live. ByÂ this I mean we need to change our system of production and consumption to move fromÂ a cradle to waste system to a cradle-to-cradle system (for more on this youÂ should read the book Cradle to Cradle Â by William McDonough and Michael Braungart).
LessÂ xenophobia: â€˜You canâ€™t hate someone whose story you knowâ€™Â â€“ IÂ read this recently in an article written by Margaret Wheatley (and apparentlyÂ she read it off the back of a t-shirt!). I think that we can combat xenophobiaÂ by having people really understand and engage in each otherâ€™s stories. Once youÂ know someone and you empathize with them, how can you hate them?
The perspective of one of my teammates on sustainabilityÂ is that everyone should do their part; saving light, getting double paned glassÂ on windows, not using plastic utensils etc. And not that Iâ€™m against this (and I try in little ways to do it myself), IÂ was just stating my own belief on how we can solve our unsustainable manner ofÂ living.
Now what was interesting about all this was when IÂ realized that we were coming to different solutions simply because of where weÂ were looking at the problem from. She saw the problem from the perspective ofÂ individuals, whereas I was looking at the problem from the perspective ofÂ industry and the global economic system. Whatâ€™s funny though is that when IÂ took the problem of how to reduce xenophobia, I was looking at the solutionÂ very much from an individual perspective.
It was at this point where it struck me that having awarenessÂ over what I was paying attention to when looking at the problem meant that IÂ could understand and better explore the other solutions being proposed. It felt like I could take off the glasses I was using, put on another pair, and thenÂ look at the problem again with fresh eyes/from a new perspective.
Consciously practicing â€˜re-framingâ€™ I believe is an importantÂ aspect of leadership. TheÂ Chairman and co-founder of the company I currently work for, Tom Cummings,Â recently co-wrote, with Jim Keen, a book titledÂ Leadership Landscapes. One of the leadership practices thatÂ Cummings and Keen talk about in the book is the ability of leaders to â€˜re-frameâ€™.Â Imagine, like I described above, that you view the world through a set of glasses. What happens if one day you take those glasses off and you put onÂ someone elseâ€™s glasses? Will things still look the same? How will this impactÂ your thinking? How will it shape your behavior? Re-framing is the ability thatÂ leaders have to solve intractable problems by being able to change the lensesÂ they are using to look at the situation.
A re-framing practice that Cummings and Keen suggest isÂ to look at your issue/problem across the landscapes. Imagine a landscape inÂ your mind. When I imagine it I see myself standing on a hill looking to theÂ horizon. At the furthest point of my vision is the horizon (rolling hills, flatÂ plains or the sea) and just in front of me standing where I am is me, theÂ trees, the houses etc. In the context of leadership, Cummings and Keen indicate 5 levels of the landscape: individual, team, organizational, industry, andÂ macro business. A re-framing practice I find useful is to take the challengeÂ Iâ€™m facing and ask myself which landscape Iâ€™m approaching it from. Once I knowÂ that I can either ‘bump up’ or ‘bump down’ the challenge on the landscapes.Â Changing the context often helps to solve the problem.Â
Another article which I believe links to theÂ concept of re-framing across landscapes, is by Roger Martin, Dean ofÂ the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. He wrote anÂ article in Harvard Business Review titled, HowÂ Leaders Think. In the article he says that we shouldnâ€™t emulate whatÂ leaders do, but how they think. Â
Interestingly enough, re-framing also links to my recentÂ post on innovation. Diversity exists in groups because we all approach problemsÂ from different perspectives. The ability to switch these perspectives helps toÂ drive innovation because it opens the door to exploring new and creativeÂ approaches.Â