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Try to Look at Problems from Different Perspectives

Try to Look at Problems from Different Perspectives

Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.

~Marcus Aurelius

As many of you know, I really enjoy hiking, especially in the woods. Nature constantly surprises me.

Recently, I was hiking on the Bartram Trail, which is located on the border of North Carolina and Georgia. It is a beautiful trail, but the mountain just seems to throw hurdle after hurdle at me as I ascend. Sometimes it is roots, sometimes large boulders, and other times it is just the steepness of the mountain that gets me. Then, hiking down, it throws a whole different set of hurdles at me. I have to be so much more vigilant about where I place my feet. One wrong step, and I lose my balance, which is not pretty but also incredibly dangerous.

What really amazes me about this is how different the experience hiking up is from the experience hiking down. I feel as though I am on a different mountain depending on which way I am going. It is the same vegetation—the same rocks and the same roots—but it looks so much different from different vantage points.

Clearly, vantage points matter. So many times I see things going up but really marvel at their beauty on my way down.

Related Article: Be the Problem Solver

Too often decision makers come to decisions after looking at the problem from only one vantage point. If you do not change your vantage point, you will never see the other side of the problem, and viewing the issue from the other side usually reveals additional valuable information.

An entrepreneur I was working with was considering purchasing a new delivery truck. He was hesitating because of the cost of the purchase. However, when he turned it around and looked at the decision from the customer service point of view, it was clear he could not afford to not make the investment.

When he considered only the cost of the decision, all he could see was how expensive it was. However, looking at it from a service perspective, it was easy to see how valuable it would be to have a truck with some idle capacity. It would allow him to continue making deliveries in the event one of his other trucks went down, which would be critical for his business in the long run.

Yet another client did not want to hire a temporary CEO while he was out looking for a full-time person. As with the other entrepreneur, this business owner was also concerned with money. He felt he could avoid this expense by just having the management team guide the business in the interim.

However, when we turned it around and saw how the absence of a leader would impact morale, it was clear what would be the more costly decision. The business owner quickly hired a part-time CEO.

Now go out and make sure you are considering every decision from as many points of view as possible. Looking over, under and around a decision really helps you see the issue in such a different framework.

You can do this!

Published: September 24, 2015

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Jerry Osteryoung

Jerry Osteryoung is a consultant to businesses—he has directly assisted over 3,000 firms. He is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship (Emeritus) and Professor of Finance (Emeritus) at Florida State University. He was the founding Executive Director of the Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. His latest book, coauthored with Tim O’Brien, “If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book,” is a bestseller on Amazon. Email Jerry @ jerry.osteryoung@gmail.com

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