Shifting Perspective Can Be Simple

by | Dec 9, 2020 | Thought Piece Series

Earlier this year (June) I bought a world map – not the Mercator projection, but the Gall-Peters Projection. It shows countries with the correct size relative to each other. The shapes are wrong, but the size is right. It’s a different perspective.

The Mercator map, that most of us grew up with, pumps up the size of Europe and North America. Greenland looks massive on this map, bigger than China, when in fact China is almost 4.5 times the size of Greenland.

And because it’s 2020, I just put it up on my office wall.

Shifting my perspective

Now, I’ve always known that the Mercator projection skewed the picture, that it made all of Europe and Greenland seem much bigger than they actually are, and that it made Africa, South America, etc much smaller.

But when I hung it up, I spent the first 10 mins saying
look how big that country is!
and look at how massive that country is
Saudi is enormous!
Madagascar is bigger than the whole of the UK and Ireland!

We know, but do we really know?

You see, even when we know something like the Mercator map gets the dimensions wrong, we still actually see it the old way: Europe and North America are big, everything else is small. It reality of knowing doesn’t compute. We don’t really see it until we look at it a new way. We’re changing our perspective.

Here are some things we all know, but the events of this year have given us the opportunity to really see.

We all live in our own bubbles, with our own set of information about the world.

Sometimes our bubbles are similar to the bubbles of those around us. We know this. But when we see that some people wear masks and some don’t – even when its mandated – we finally see that clearly, we all have our own set of information that guide our decision-making. How else can you explain that people still go out and socialise, even though there is a highly contagious airborne virus around?

Life-changing events change our lives.

I feel a bit stupid even writing that sentence because duh! Of course!
But still, we have all been surprised that the pandemic has changed our lives. The shock, even when you know it’s coming, is still a shock.

Fight, flight, freeze.

When there is danger, we do one of these. And across the world, when the general public was told about Covid19, there was a big pause as we tried to process the lockdown and what this Covid thing was/is. I think it was a collective “freeze” moment. Not of terror, more of “um, what? I don’t know what to do” moment.
At the same time, there was a flurry of activity to treat the sick, stock up on supplies, research the disease. Have you seen the size of Kazakhstan?

People are amazing. Give people a crisis and they will do incredible things.

The supply chains of major retailers rapidly adjusted to the situation – think of all those supermarkets that were able to re-stock – within a week! – after the panic buying. FMCG is fast because the supply chains are agile.

When you put money and resources behind a project, you get results fast.

One of the fastest developments of a vaccine (ever?). I now know that a big portion of the time it takes to develop new medicines is taken up with getting funding.

We don’t need to commute to an office anymore

This idea has been around since the 1980s. That’s 40 years. Millions of people around the world shifted to working from home – and the companies didn’t collapse because of it. Interesting perspective, right?
What took us so long? Well, this is something else we know: People struggle with change. It’s something we know and like to think isn’t true.
But this is also true: people aren’t dumb – we will do what’s necessary to survive.

When we let people do the jobs they were hired to do, we get excellence

For example, when we let teachers teach… Seriously, we gave an entire profession a few days to design a completely new way of teaching children, during a pandemic, and they did. In just a few days! My kids had an entire homeschooling system set up so fast – in a country that doesn’t really do homeschooling.

Key lessons from 2020, that we all knew, but now we know

  • Less management means better results.
  • People really love toilet paper, apparently.
  • When we throw enough money and resources at something, we can perform miracles.
  • People are amazing.
  • Have you seen the size of Papua New Guinea?
  • When we can trust our people, good things happen.
  • We all choose ourselves over others sometimes.
  • Connection is important.
  • Sometimes it takes a disaster to make us do what we already thought we should do, and already had the technology to do.

And now, your perspective…

What have you changed this year because of this year’s events?
What new perspective are you using to see the world?

Now, I’m going back to staring in fascination at this Peters Projection. It’s a real joy.

p.s. I accidentally ordered a German-language map so now I’m learning the German names for all the countries in the world. 2020 is full of surprises.

This is part of my Thought Piece Series where I explore topics related to leadership and provide both answers and questions. My intention is to start meaningful conversations that help us move forward. Want to talk more? Get in touch.

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