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Perspective: Zoom In on Details, Zoom Out for the Big Idea

What are you seeing? It might tell you as much about what you are missing.

The photo attached to this blog inspired this series. There is so much to take in it got me thinking about perspective. Which ones we take and those we never consider.

In this post I'll focus on a sliding scale of perspective. At one end is the default perspective of looking for the details, zooming in on a few select ideas. At the other end is the broad picture, wide frame view. In business, I've seen these play out in a juxtaposition of strategy and execution.

Wide frame, zoomed out perspective

If this is your default mode, you see the big picture, the forest so to speak. You might have perspective about how larger component pieces and teams should fit together. What each might contribute to a system.

When your aperture is wide you can see larger systemic rifts on the horizon or movement of competition in the marketplace. This can be incredibly valuable. This gift focused on the future might allow you to envision exciting big possibilities.

Communicating these big ideas can be a challenge. A useful tool to explain what you see is a value stream map, showing the larger contributing or transforming parts of a process to deliver value to a customer. Or storytelling skills to share what an ideal future might look like.

An over emphasis on the big picture might leave others who prefer details struggling to contribute. It may also prevent you from understanding derailers early in the process. After all, the devil is in the details.

Laser focused, zoomed in perspective

If this is your default mode you may find you can swim around in the details all day long. Getting lost in studying an element or series of elements feels like flow. This may make you especially good at solving complex problems that require near perfect solution execution. It is after all the details that make the entire system work, with or without friction.

With details as the default, the borders of the detail you are concerned with can come to define the whole picture. This is dangerous because context gets lost and your energy may end up being focused on the wrong details.

A tool for context setting can be to trace the detail back to larger systems. Provide context and key connection points that help others understand the magnitude of the detail in consideration. Challenging yourself to explain these connection points will also help you confirm the importance of the detail in consideration, potentially saving you time to direct to higher value details.

Context matters, don't allow it to get lost, else your details will also be lost.

Take action by balancing perspectives

Every perspective has value. The value is maximized when the perspectives are balanced by other points on the spectrum.

Here are a few exercises to help:

  • Find a partner and ask questions. Seek out a perspective partner, one who by default operates somewhere else on the Zoom In / Zoom Out perspective. Share your perspective / idea and ask what you might be missing? Specify what you are seeking - input on important details that might derail the idea, or environmental factors that you've missed. Listen without judgement and adjust. Acknowledge their partnership.

  • Use your imagination. If you can't find a partner, stretch yourself. Divide a paper down the middle. On one side list your thoughts, assumptions or concerns - either broad big picture or details. On the other side of the paper, write questions, assumptions or what you think would need to be true for your solution to work. This may not solve the case, but it will get on paper a list of ideas to explore when others are available.

  • Move one step towards to middle and evaluate. If you find yourself on one extreme or the other, challenge yourself to step towards the middle. Can you describe the connections to either slightly more detail or a slightly broader picture? When you do this, then evaluate, is my revised description easier to understand?

Having an awareness of your default approach and strengths will help you form better partnerships and deliver better decisions.

If you would like to explore strengths more in depth, let's connect.


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