Thursday, October 29, 2015

Points of View

You've heard that the Design Thinking process begins with Empathic Inquiry. in this posting we're going to explore why. It has to do with the outcome of the inquiry, which is called Point of View.

POV is more than understanding the story, its seeing the world from someone else's perspective. POV means you understand not only the other person's biases and beliefs at the same time yo are aware of how their perceptual filters influence their view of the world. The Heinz Kohut said empathy is "...what allows an individual to know another's experience without losing one's objectivity."

Have you ever found yourself in a conversation and realized that the differences of opinion we so great that you may as well have been speaking different languages? It's partly the result of the way the human brain(s) work.

You have three "brains" Each is constantly working, but they perform different functions.

The neocortex is where conscious, rational, thinking occurs. It is also where the creativity and planning for the future happens.

The Limbic Brain is the seat of your feelings and emotions.

The Reptilian, or Primitive Brain controls your basic bodily functions and acts to keep you life and safe.

Your consciousness is constantly influenced by the operation of these three brain areas, like a three ring circus.

Stressful events release hormones which shift deeper into the brain, suppressing concentration, short-term memory, rational thought and inhibitions. If you've ever been in an argument, you've seen the results of that first hand. In addition, individual reactions to stress vary. Some folks have a longer fuse than others, but one thing you can be sure of is that unmitigated stress is the enemy of creative thought. If your goal is to foster creativity, it's important to regulate the stress level so that the Primitive Brain doesn't take over and shut down the non-linear, what-if, thinking.

Design Thinking calls for being aware of what is happening on all three levels. But there is a aspect to it which may not be obvious; If you are working with someone or a group which prefers using their Limbic or Reptilian Brains they may need more help when Brainstorming or understanding the latent (unexpressed) emotional factors in the situation.

There are ways to get a hint at someone's preferred brain mode by observation of two of their natural attitudes regarding time and person when they are under stress. I call this their Preferred Stress Quadrant; The axis are Me <-> Them and Now <-> Then.

People who tend to concentrate on their immediate self prefer the Me/Now Quadrant. They are probably less comfortable with ambiguity and "Blue Sky" activities. 

At the other extreme are the people who think about the future and others. They are more comfortable in the Them/Then quadrant and are likely better at What if? thinking and brainstorming. 

Note that these conditions exist on continuums and the balance is constantly shifting. Since Design Thinking visits all four quadrants, it would be good to have an understanding of this, as it can be an indication of what to expect as you move thru the phases.

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