Your Window on the World

November 19th, 2019

Adapt your thinking and test any assumptions you make which are based on your own experience.

I have written numerous blogs on the importance of understanding the context in which you are developing your products and services.

Understanding the context in which you are already working is important, as is understanding the context in which you would like to work and collaborate. The situation in which you have created your business and how you develop ideas will vary. This is your context.

Before you can fully understand the breadth of the context in which you work, or others work, you need to step outside your familiar surroundings, see what else is going on and look back in.

Stepping out of your own shoes into the shoes and perspectives of others sounds easy. But, particularly in the case when you are trying to look at your own situation through the lens of others it can be tricky. How do you stop being influenced by what you already know? How can you achieve this wider perspective effectively?

Your context is more than our current situation. The context in which you work is enhanced by your background, where you have come from and all that you have done. When you start to explore and broaden your perspective and insight, you also maximise the learning from your own journey to date. The things that are familiar to you are not the norm for others. This insight is invaluable as you build your business.

To better understand how unique an individual or business’s context is, it is helpful to look at the Frame of Reference Model that Jacqui and Aaron Schiff published in the 1970s.

As above, an image of the framework has been incorporated in the MHFA (Mental Health First Aid) England training materials and what this shows us are all the factors that affect how we see the world i.e. our window on the world. In the MHFA training, this tool is this model used to show how our attitudes which sit under each of these factors will shape how we support people with emotional and mental health issues.  Factors are numerous and include our values, experience/achievements and relationships, through to our age, gender, work, education and so on.

My purpose of sharing this model here, however, is to exemplify how when you work with other individuals or businesses, their window to the world is likely to be very different to yours. Therefore when you are creating a solution to a problem they are experiencing you must test any assumptions you are making at an early stage of development. Your assumptions will be based on your reality, what you know to be true and not based on their window, background and their experience of the problem you are solving.

I worked with many global pharmaceutical companies in the 1990s. As part of their drug licensing processes, they had to carry out trials of their new therapies in particular patient groups. Pharma company research teams, often based in global headquarters would design trials to be conducted in UK based hospitals. However, it was very common that the trial had to be redesigned as soon as it became apparent, on discussion, that the trial was designed in the context of the US or European clinical practices and not how patients were seen or treated in the UK. We would have to feedback the way in which practice occurred in the UK, detailing how patients with particular medical conditions were seen and how UK based clinicians would interact and treat them. There were often differences between what procedures were carried out in hospitals versus the community and the number and type of screening tests that were carried out at different stages and so on. The original trials would have been designed according to the US or European based project lead’s understanding, without an appreciation of the context in which patients were treated in the UK. Their window on the world was very different and therefore their thinking needed to be challenged.

Do you routinely challenge your own thinking and ensure your products and services are developed with a robust understanding of the reality according to your end-users and beneficiaries?

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