Why You Need a Fresh Perspective

Tough business issues?

You might need a fresh perspective

This little fable about my friend Ann, her husband Sam and their friend Chuck may hold the solution. (Names have been changed to protect the guilty.)

garage-door-openerOne day Ann and Sam decided that it was time to replace the garage door opener. After finding a great online bargain for a high quality opener, they decided to save a little money and have Sam install it himself.

Sam, being a little less than super-handy thought, “I should get my friend Chuck to help.” Chuck is one of those guys that everyone needs as a friend or neighbor. He has a truck full tools and the know-how to use them. Best of all, he can usually be paid with beer.

The next afternoon, Sam and Chuck got together and started working on the door opener. They took down the old one, opened the new one, and quickly assembled it. In almost no time they were ready to tackle installation.

Then before they knew it, Chuck and Sam were in trouble. Their speedy project plan came to a screeching halt when the opener wouldn’t fit properly. 

After a couple of hours of scratching their heads, re-reading the instructions, and measuring over and over, they thought they found the problem.

“It’s missing two holes,” they decided.

What to do? A simple solution was evident: drill two new holes.

Soon Ann arrived home and they explained their predicament. “There was something wrong with this opener,” they said. “It was missing two holes. But we made new ones, and look, we’re  ready to put it up.”

Another hour, later dinner time was approaching and Ann stepped outside to see how things were going. Chuck and Sam were still scratching their heads, “It still won’t open right,” Sam said. “We can’t figure out what’s wrong. It should work, but it doesn’t,” explained Chuck.

Eventually (and against their better judgment) Chuck and Sam decided to call it a day. After some more head-shaking and a well-deserved beer, Chuck went home and Sam felt defeated.

The opener was up. It opened the garage door. But not all the way. It just wasn’t working quite right.

The next morning Sam went off to work, cursing the faulty opener and vowing to get it fixed over the weekend.

Ann was frustrated too, so she decided to check out the situation.

She grabbed a ladder, climbed up and took a look at the opener. Ann could see the adjustment the men had made, but she refused to believe that the opener made it through manufacturing and inspection without two critical holes.

She looked over the instructions and then turned to YouTube to see what she could find. In about five minutes, Ann was watching a video that showed in detail how to properly install the opener.

Ann toted her iPad up the ladder, reviewed the video again, and noticed something important. Something the men didn’t see. The opener itself was installed – wait for it – backwards!

How could two smart man have missed that?

Actually, it was a really easy mistake.

Working together, Chuck and Sam developed a shared point of view. Their mutual trust and common perspective affirmed to each of them that the path they chose was correct. Once decided, they were committed to their course of action and didn’t (or couldn’t) step back far enough to see what was really going on.

It was only with a fresh perspective and the aid of some additional input that the problem was solved.

Scenarios like this play out in businesses every day. A group of smart people get together. They firmly believe that their shared knowledge and experience is all they need to solve the problems they face.

Unfortunately, they may not even be looking at the right problem. Like Chuck and Sam, who were convinced the door opener was faulty, the team’s assumptions get in the way. They agree on what’s wrong. They think they know how to fix  it.

But making holes, or plugging them, isn’t the solution when the problem is one of orientation:

  • Hiring top talent won’t solve a problem with excess attrition.
  • Sales performance isn’t your problem if you have the wrong products.
  • Competition might not be your issue if you have surly employees.

Finding the right solution is only possible when you have the proper perspective.

If you’re stuck on a thorny issue, or one that keeps popping up every time you think you’ve got it solved, it’s time for you to get a fresh take on the situation.

Step back in order to break out of tunnel vision or team myopia. Get someone else to look at the problem so you can truly see it clearly. Turn to a trusted advisor, bring in a consultant, or engage a different group of employees to take a new look at the circumstances.

You’ll be surprised by how many of the “immovable” roadblocks in your organization suddenly become less stubborn.

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