Are you truly listening to the opinions of others?
In the previous article, we discussed the third process of improvement and innovation, “ filter adjustment for observation,” and how the filter is the value system that each individual has, and that there are two processes by which this filter is formed: one is cultivated through past experience as an individual survival strategy, and the other is nurtured through subjective truths and wishes.
In this article, we will continue to discuss “ filter adjustment for observations,” how to do it, and how to make filter adjustments not only for oneself, but for the team as a whole.
First, be aware of your values
The first and foremost step in adjusting the filter for observations is to become aware of one’s own values. If we are not aware that we are wearing “glasses,” we cannot adjust those “glasses.”
However, it is not easy to become aware of one’s “glasses.” This is because in many cases, we unconsciously see things through our “glasses.” People who actually wear glasses or contact lenses may understand this, and may forget the existence of glasses or contact lenses when they look at things in everyday life. In the same way, we are usually not very conscious of the “glasses” of our values.
So how can we become more aware of our values?
The first step is to listen to the opinions of others.
It is obvious advice, but truly listening to the opinions of others has tremendous power. Not many people are able to listen to the opinions of others while always keeping in mind the possibility of “adjusting one’s perspective.”
Care for one’s own and others’ sense of discomfort
There is a key to listening to the opinions of others. It is to value the “unverbalized discomfort” of yourself and others.
If you see the other person feeling uncomfortable in a dialogue or meeting, don’t miss it but catch it. This is because there is a high possibility that there is a perspective hidden there that you do not see.
Likewise, you should not miss anything that you feel uncomfortable with. It is highly likely that there is a perspective hidden there that you are not aware of.
The sense of discomfort here is like a feeling or intuition, not necessarily something that can be verbalized and explained. Let’s not dismiss “discomfort that cannot be verbalized” because we cannot explain it well or because we cannot verbalize it, but rather, let’s cherish it. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the time when “discomfort that cannot be verbalized” arises is an opportunity to change something.
Once you have caught the discomfort of others, encourage them to express it as much as possible. What do you see? How would you put it into words? Rather than asking them to explain the reasons, we ask them to put their sensations directly into words.
On the contrary, what we should not do is ignore or dismiss the discomfort of others.
When things are done without facing the discomfort of others, it may be good in the short term, but it will always cause problems in the long term. If we see the discomfort of others as an opportunity to make things better, or an opportunity to change ourselves, it will always be a positive thing in the long run.
It is very difficult to suspend at a feeling of discomfort, especially when we are in urgent situations, but the more such a situation arises, the more we should suspend and not ignore it.
It is also important not to get into a fight when asking them to express their discomfort. Be aware that others’ discomfort tends to be viewed as opposition to you or resistance to things that are going on. You may not always be able to afford to listen, especially when you are in the midst of a difficult situation.
In such cases, it is effective to dare to provide another opportunity. In my case, I set up a 1-on-1 opportunity with employees and ask them to express various opinions in a dialogue between individuals.
Since 1-on-1 is not a discussion session, it is easy for both parties to disclose the honest thoughts and feelings without becoming too serious. In fact, through 1-on-1s with employees, I have very often received hints about viewpoints that I had not seen in myself, and have become aware of the values I hold.
Ethnography to others
In receiving the discomfort of others, it is also useful to ethnograph them. Ethnography is originally a term from the fields of sociology and cultural anthropology, and is a research method that promotes deeper understanding by putting oneself in the living environment of the research subject and acting together with the subject. Here, please understand it to mean “ to become the other person”.
There is a depth to “becoming.” Here, we aim to “become” in the deepest sense, including the other person’s way of thinking, values, and the context that has formed them. Of course, it is impossible to “become” someone completely, but we aim to create a sense of being himself/herself.
The reason is that when we can “ become” the other person in a deeper sense, it is easier to relativize ourselves.
To “become” the other person in a deep sense is to simulate the other person’s way of seeing things. Then, when we come back to our normal selves, we get the sense that “my way of seeing things is only one of many,” and we can relativize it.
When ethnographing, the feeling is that of simply receiving the thoughts, intuitions, and physical sensations of the other person as they are. This is almost the same as the sense of self-congruence.
Self-congruence means that we receive our thoughts, intuitions, and physical sensations from the meta-consciousness just as they were. This is, so to speak, an ethnography of oneself. If we take the same view of the other person, it becomes an ethnography of the other person.
When “becoming” the other person, there is no need to consciously try to capture ourselves in a relative way. If we concentrate on “becoming” the other person at a deep level, the relativization of our own values will come naturally.
Seeing oneself as a film actor from the film director’s point of view
So far, we have talked about how one’s values naturally become relative by listening to the other person’s opinions and becoming the other person. If you are able to grasp this feeling, I would like to challenge you to observe yourself with meta-consciousness.
To observe oneself with meta-consciousness means, to use a film metaphor to describe it, to try to have the sense not only of a film actor in a film story, but also of a film director.
Usually we are the main actor in our own life stories. We have various experiences and emotions from the point of view of a film actor.
Let’s look at this from the film director’s point of view. As a film actor, you are one of the actors in a big stage, and you as a film director will observe yourself(actor) on the stage.
The beauty of this method is that it allows us to see ourselves as we are, including our own personal beliefs.
For example, when the leader of an organization encounters a problem, from the film actor’s perspective, he or she may feel that he or she must do something by himself/herself.
On the other hand, from the film director’s point of view, one might think that “it is wonderful that he/she is trying to do his/her best as a leader”, or that “such problems sometimes occur because he/she is a leader”, or that “he/she may not have to do it by the leader alone.”
This meta view is key, and it is easy to notice the bias in perspective that comes from thoughts like “I have to do something as a leader.”
By moving back and forth between the perspectives of various actors in this way, the filter of observation is gradually adjusted. It is an image of relativizing one’s own subjectivity more and more. By doing so, we become able to observe things from more and more multiple perspectives, closer to the way they really are.
Set up a place where we can adjust filters as a team
So far, we have talked about filter adjustment as an individual, but in improvement and innovation, it is desirable for each team member to be able to adjust his or her own filters.
To achieve this, the most important thing is to create a place where psychological safety is ensured so that each individual can express his or her discomfort. A place where each person can express his or her discomfort without hesitation, where other team members can ethnograph the discomfort to feel the perspective of the person with the discomfort, and where the team members can take the opportunity to adjust their own filters as necessary.
In a nutshell, this means creating a place for dialogue where psychological safety is ensured. It could be a team-building type of place, an off-site meeting, or some part of a regular meeting.
What is most important is the state of mind of the person who will be the leader of the occasion. For more information with regard to the psychological safety, please see this article.
A leader’s self-trust brings psychological safety to the team
In my previous article, I talked about how self-trust fosters “horizontal relationships” with people, allowing us to be…
In this issue, we talked about having multiple viewpoints, not just one’ s own subjective viewpoint, in order to become aware of one’s own values and adjust one’s filters. In the next issue, we will discuss how to adjust one’ s filter in concrete terms.
Here are the quests of the day. (If you’d like, please share your thoughts in the comments.)
・What experiences, if any, have you had in the past where listening deeply to the opinions of others triggered a transformation in your values?
・What experiences, if any, have you had in the past where a transformation of your values occurred as a result of looking at a small sense of discomfort within yourself?