There are five ways of seeing a problem; having all five represented at the decision-making table is valuable. Together, they bring a real kaleidoscope of perspectives. Once heard, they can reveal angles and solutions we may have missed. Taking the time to be sure all five kinds of voices are heard ensures we don’t problem-solve in isolation, or focus on the short-term, or give more weight to our research or gut than to the bigger picture, which has human and spiritual dimensions as surely as it does economic or business ones.
For instance, only one kind of voice brings the facts forward as a heart-felt focus. We’re all obliged to know the facts, but we don’t all love them. Only FACT-FINDING SCHOLARS truly have no trouble supplying references, earning respect as the most knowledgeable person in the room and duly accommodated. BUT, if facts are all we have we don’t have the whole picture.
There are also STORYTELLERS who love to put human flesh on dry-bone facts and slides. These are the people with their finger on the social pulse of the room. You can probably identify the fact-finders and storytellers in your circle. Likely, they have little patience for each other and seem to be speaking a different language altogether. That’s because they are. Seen through a Scholar’s lens, facts speak for themselves; stories are superfluous. Seen through a Storyteller’s lens, stories suggest the heart of the matter and point to would-be priorities; acting as guiding lights when it comes to problem-solving. For them, facts are secondary.
Being the person willing to hear both equally well means being the one with their hand on the kaleidoscope, seeking, above all, perspective—the bigger picture, which by definition requires multiple voices.
The trick is in identifying the KINDS of voices needed; finding the people with each kind of voice and including them in the conversation in a levelling non-hierarchal way (e.g. a kaleidoscope turning, shifting, reshaping each piece of the puzzle).
In addition to the Fact-finding Scholar and the Socializing Storyteller, there will also be the ADVOCATE-for-CHANGE VOICE wanting to make itself heard. This is the person willing and eager to speak up for those who are affected by the decision in question; the problem waiting to be solved. This is the voice of the voiceless. They too need to be heard and considered, even when they come across as slightly scratchy because they’re willing to go against the grain on behalf of others. Theirs is a thankless task, but they’re an important piece of the problem-solving equation in the long-term.
Facts. Plus Stories. Plus Advocacy. That should be enough to assess the scope of a problem and come to the best conclusion possible… but, there are two more voices waiting to be heard; two more dimensions added to the kaleidoscope.
There is the VOICE OF COURAGE that needs be added to the mix for a fuller perspective on the possibilities. This is the voice willing to take on big challenges. Willing to work through sticky issues to figure out the best way forward. To get messy in the process and call it a good day’s work. There is a spirit of adventure in this voice and most people respond well to it, but it needs to be invited to the table. The Advocate’s voice will elbow its way in to the conversation. The Courageous voice waits to be courted, invited and even wooed before it will speak from its core and say what needs to be said.
Finally, there is the SPIRITUAL VOICE; the voice of discernment and/or ethical consideration. This is the voice that goes beyond legal or even moral requirements, if those are involved. If this type of voice is welcome at your decision-making table; if their concerns and input are part of your kaleidoscope perspective of the whole, you will have the big picture in sight—and be spiritually equipped to see it and its implications. Ultimately this is a prayerful, gentle voice that carries unusual authority.
It’s hard to think of any problem that wouldn’t benefit from such a multi-perspective approach!
When all five kinds of voices are heard and duly considered, problem solving becomes child’s play. Solutions emerge. Patterns appear. New ways of working together are seen. And obstacles and frustrations seem to shrink; because the power-of-five is more than any single problem.
Of course, it takes time to identify who’s in the room and the perspective they bring to the table, but simply stated:
- Fact-finding Scholars bring certainty, confidence and accountability to the table.
- Storytellers with their finger on the social pulse, bring humanity, humour and grace.
- Advocates for Change keep us in touch with people outside the room; who are not at the decision-making table but are often the ones most affected by our decisions.
- Courageous Adventurers speak to what’s latent within us and waiting for an opportunity to shine, to dare and to succeed.
- Spiritual Discernment voices keep us in touch with unseen currents, attuning us to a more eternal or meaningful perspective, and gently nudge us to venture deeper.
Together: facts + stories + advocacy + courage to envision + spiritual tempering offer us beautiful solutions in light of big-picture perspectives.