The Enliven! Blog

Helping Harness Human Capacity

Step Up a Level for Perspective

We all know the feeling of stress when we face a pressing, complex, emotionally laden problem. An all too familiar weight of descends when forward progress, sense of equilibrium or hope for the future are threatened. In such situations it is hard to “breathe” enough to sort out the situation.

At times like this, a new perspective brings a breath of fresh air. But where does that perspective come from? One helpful source is the mental act of “stepping up a level”. When one is able to divert one’s attention from the single case-nature of an organization’s turmoil, and to survey the landscape from a loftier vantage, a fresh, calming breeze can blow.

Where does one step up to? It can be helpful to step up to a “systemic perspective”. This systemic perspective focuses on the broad industry or group of which one’s organization is part. One looks down from above, as it were, on the particular problem at hand. This distance provides some perspective.

Let’s say, for example, that one’s organization is a charitable ministry working with children. The aim is to recruit as many children as possible into the organization’s life giving programs. Current recruiting techniques are maintaining but not increasing enrolment levels.

What can be done to reach more children? Shift to the systemic level! One might also call it the abstract level. Ask “What are the logical recruitment options for organizations in our type of ministry?” I have found this to be a question which removes the pressure to find an immediate solution and creates a bit of space for creating and considering new options.

In the children’s ministry example, one might identify a number of categories of recruitment options. These categories in turn suggest specific actions. Categories for recruitment activity could logically include: word of mouth (parents, siblings, teachers, other children); internet (websites, video, music, animations, facebook, twitter); events (parties, reunions); telephone (calling blitzes, strategic calls); media (radio, newspaper, TV); give-aways (T shirts, water bottles); signs (on buildings, roadsides), contests, endorsements, etc. , arts (drama, poetry, visual).

Having identified the categories through a mental scan, one could do google research to augment the list. Having built the list, one could proceed with a rational sequence of prioritizing recruitment methods.

The “step up” is key. I have suggested it is helpful to look at the broader context of which the organization is part. Perhaps another way to move a “step up” is to invite observations from a variety of people, ranging from passionate to dispassionate, informed to uninformed. People of religious faith can certainly pray for a sense of perspective. Or perhaps some special time needs to be set aside, either for a working retreat, or a retreat to vacation land! In any case, the move up to perspective is like hiking on a mountain. When one reaches the top and looks back, the twisted, forked trail makes more sense than it did a few hours ago, when the twists and turns represented a myriad of choices.

Have you ever used the concept of “stepping up to the next level” to solve problems? How did that work for you?

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