When it comes to visual thinking or any other type of communication medium, it’s easy to take for granted the importance that perspectives have on our interpretation of the information we are trying to convey. Each perspective interprets the situation from a slightly different angle, and this therefore leads to a variety of conclusions and understandings.
Before we explore how perspectives can be applied to visual thinking and problem solving, let’s first take a trip into the past down memory lane.
Back at school when we first came across the idea of perspectives, we learned that if a person is speaking or writing in the first person, that he or she is talking about himself or herself.
- I like to dance.
- I enjoy dancing.
- I have fun dancing.
This type of perspective is often used in formal writing.
We also learned about the second person perspective which is in essence the opposite of the first person perspective. So instead of referring to “I”, the speaker refers to “you”.
- You love to dance.
- You enjoy dancing.
- You have fun dancing.
The second person perspective is often used while giving instructions.
Finally, we have the third person perspective, where we make reference to “he” or “she” or “they”.
- He loves to dance.
- She enjoys dancing.
- They have fun dancing.
This type of perspective is also often used in formal writing.
We’re all probably pretty familiar with these perspectives, even if we’re not consciously aware of them. However, the critical question here is how can they be applied to the process of visual thinking? Let’s discuss that within the next section.
Using Perspectives in Visual Thinking
When it comes to visual thinking, perspectives can become quite valuable in two ways:
- They can help you communicate your ideas far more effectively.
- They can assist you with gaining a different understanding of the problem you are facing.
Visual thinking is all about problem solving. And problem solving is all about finding the solutions you are after that will help you to resolve the challenges you face. However, solutions are only often found when we take into consideration a variety of perspectives that provide us with unique insights into our problems.
When it comes to visual thinking, these perspectives are known as filters, because they help filter the information we are exploring in a specific way — providing us with new insights and viewpoints.
Let’s have a look at each of these filters and how they apply to visual thinking and problem solving in a little more detail.
The First Person Filter
Whenever you are faced with a problem, it’s important that you first explore it from your own perspective and understanding (first person). Ask yourself:
- What is my interpretation of this problem?
- What is my understanding of the events and circumstances surrounding this problem?
- How do I see these events?
- What solutions do I feel would be viable here?
- How could I represent this visually?
The first person perspective is important because it helps you to build a baseline foundation state that can be used as a measuring tool against the other two perspectives for comparison purposes. However, the first person perspective does have one critical flaw: it is atrociously biased. As a result it will provide you with only a limited understanding of your problem. Which is why you now need to consider the second and third perspectives.
The Second Person Filter
You’ve collected data about your problem, represented it visually, and analyzed it from your limited understanding and perspective. It’s a good starting point, however solutions are often found when we explore the data using a variety of filters. As such, we must now apply the second person filter to help us expand our understanding of the problem.
The second person perspective helps us to explore the data from another person’s point of view. This perspective must come from someone who knows and is familiar with the situation or visual problem you are trying to solve. Their familiarity with the problem is both an advantage and disadvantage. It’s an advantage because they have knowledge and insight about the circumstances. It’s however a disadvantage, because this knowledge and insight could limit their ability to bring forth creative solutions to the problem.
Ask the other person:
- What is your interpretation of the problem?
- What is your understanding of the events and circumstances surrounding this problem?
- How do you see these events?
- What solutions do you feel would be viable here?
- How would you represent this visually?
Having now outlined two different perspectives, you’re now well on your way towards solving the problem you face. However, you’re still missing one major element, and that element is creativity. That’s where the third perspective comes into play.
The Third Person Filter
A third person’s perspective can be viewed in a couple of different ways.
Firstly, the perspective can come from an outsider — someone who is completely outside this problem and can therefore see the problem and the circumstances with fresh eyes without any experience, bias or emotional attachment. This fresh perspective, can provide you with seemingly unexpected solutions that you might never have considered.
Secondly, you can use what are called lenses to help you gain a third person’s perspective of the situation or problem you are facing. You could for example use the lens of Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, Richard Branson, Albert Einstein, Bugs Bunny, Harry Potter, James Bond, Oprah Winfrey, Mahatma Gandhi, etc. Simply embody them by stepping into their mind, and view the problem from their unique perspective and experience.
As you embody this other person ask:
- What is his/her interpretation of the problem?
- What is his/her understanding of the events and circumstances surrounding this problem?
- How does he/she see these events?
- What solutions does he/she feel would be viable here?
- How would they represent this visually?
Sometimes the best lenses to use are the wacky lenses such as Bugs Bunny and Harry Potter. This is where creativity comes into play, and incredible insights can be found.
Visualizing the Three Perspectives
Once the visual thinking framework is locked into place and the visual thinking foundations have been laid out, I will come back to the three perspectives and provide you with practical examples showing you how they can be used and applied visually to the problems you face. For now, I hope that this post has wet-your-appetite for what’s still yet to come.