Discover more from Owtcome
Learning from spectrums of insights
Weekly Insights 2
The idea of "shifting perspective" has become so overly used and poorly understood in innovation and design that people only apply it superficially. It isn't easy to make a case for the benefits it brings, especially taken out of context and shared as a promise at the end of a creative workshop session.
So, let's dive deeper into what shifting perspectives entails to prepare for some useful groundwork that can help you next time you want to sail far from the shore without losing direction.
Shifting perspectives is easier to understand if you think of it as nuanced thinking. Nuanced thinking begins with noticing contrasts. Just like in color theory, there are a few stages of nuanced perception that are worth talking about:
Black-and-white thinking. It's the most popular and widespread way of defining our world. Dichotomies make the world monochrome and void richness as they exclude each other. There's always a strive for dominating views (e.g., people must be either good or bad by nature, god either exists or not, etc.). It's impossible to have both instances at the same time. But black-and-white thinking is reductive and by no means a complete representation of color, let alone reality. As we try to understand and add some complexity to it, shades of grey begin to appear.
Greyscale thinking. In most cultures, black and white are merely names to point out the sharp contrast between extremes, but in some cultures, they are referred to as "dark and light." In between, a rich number of grey tones can appear to create more fluidity and exchange between the two. Nuances reveal a crucial aspect of black and white thinking. They are no longer two separate extremes because they are connected now by the different tones. It's an unfolding of Yin-Yang as it flows and transforms.
The exchange between black and whites reveals that, in practice, the only things we can relate to are the greys. Greys make life practical and less rigid. Suddenly, concepts like morality are not universal and deontological (we can move from "lying is immoral regardless of the circumstances" toward "it's okay to tell a lie if that means saving someone's life").
However, losing creative thinking is inevitable if you stay too long with this type of thinking. The more you sit with greys, the more neutral and blended you become. In the end, you may stop seeing nuances altogether. For that, you must think about adding some color to your perspective.
A spectrum of colorful thinking. In the late 60s, a book by Brent Berlin and Paul Kay, Basic Color Terms: Their Universality and Evolution, began to change the perception of how people with different languages and cultures perceive colors. There's an order of introducing colors to language depending on how cultures evolve with their environment. (see fig. 1).
The power of colors can throw the thinking mind off balance by bringing different values together to create a sense of aesthetic complementarity beyond logic (red-yellow-blue, green-orange-violet, etc.). For people with synesthesia, emotions and sounds are colorful. Scientists now claim that we even know the first color to appear in the universe - an orange-white glow.
Color and creativity share a deep bond. Whereas shades of greys reveal the interdependency between dark and light, color is a leap into revealing a complex world where differences connect, and different tones offer a glimpse into change as a phenomenon right under our eyes. Color enriches experiences. Of course, that is not to say we only enjoy the colorful experience. But in general, color is useful in nature: “a colorful exaptation.”
Understanding nuanced thinking is a good first step. Now, let's make a distinction between "moving perspectives" and "shifting perspectives."
To move perspectives is to think within a certain scale. It's the way arguments become fluid and continuous. The movement from one perspective to another is non-disruptive and integrative, but it becomes self-enforcing and validating when done badly. While staying consistent and defending your point of view is useful, connecting and learning new things can be more difficult. It gets almost impossible to grow and become empathic with someone who doesn't believe in the same things as you do.
It applies not only to black-and-white thinking that is focused, narrow, and set straight toward action. Colorful thinking can be deemed naïve when dealing with polarities or spaces where reasoning is no longer an option. In between, greyscale can be overwhelmingly neutral. If you put all eggs in one basket, you eventually become "color blind." So, how to prevent that?
To shift perspectives is to jump from one scale to another. Making any meaningful change occurs with a conscious shift of perspective. But is shifting perspectives really possible?
When you increase your nuanced thinking through awareness, you may notice that thinking flows are quite discontinuous, filled with glitches and lags. The mindset becomes an undefined number of "mind-sets": each set is a frame more or less distinct than the other frames in sequence. Our brains don't like interruptions and unknowns, so they make up for the gaps before we can consciously have the chance to fill them.
Shifts between mind-sets are often the leaps from one sequence of frames into another. How do you know you shifted perspectives? One indication is when the mental images become crispier and more vivid for a while. In conversations, you make statements with excitement. They may be obvious to others, but to you, it's worth talking about it, at least until the perception of the idea becomes dull and you are ready to move into something else.
Why do we think the spectrum of colors is a good analogy for the spectrum of insights? Because awareness is an encompassing experience that increases when practiced and decreases when it's forgotten. Insights are colors you can use to paint the world you want to create.
It's up to you to name these colors for others to begin seeing them as well.
Subscribe to receive more weekly insights!
Useful links to further inspiration:
Summary of the Berlin and Kay’s Book: http://www.wonderfulcolors.org/blog/basic-color-terms-their-universality-and-evolution-by-berlin-and-kay/
A pretty awesome explanation of color and patterns is included here:
For those who love nature, I recommend watching Life in Colour (2021)
For more insights and stories, check out: