Robin Williams looked down on us from his desk in the iconic Dead Poet’s Society, and asked us “Why do I stand up here?” He told us, “I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way”. In honor of the late, illustrious Mr. Williams and inspirational Mr. Keating, we are spending today picking the low hanging fruit of his lesson.
If you haven’t seen Dead Poet’s Society, stop reading this and do it. Now. Don’t wait another minute. I don’t even know how you got this far in life honestly.
Okay, now that you’ve watched, we can get back on task. Mr. Keating was teaching his boys a whole lot when they took turns standing on that desk. The value of taking time to consider their world, the one they see day in and day out, from a different perspective, has to be felt. Lived. Experienced. Maybe you do things a little differently because you’ve “been there” and seen things from this other point of view. Your expanded knowledge and frame of experience allows for new possibilities, considerations, more compassion, and empathy.
So often, we are caught up in our day-to-day work lives that are dominated by whatever is in front of us. We have been through our routines, seen these people, done this work for so long that we start to automatically see what we expect to see and hear what we think we will hear. Mr. Keating warns us against the pitfall of a predictable life and urges us to break that monotony from time to time.
If we are so intent on doing what we are told to do, expected to do, or think needs to be done, it’s all we can think about.
What is closed off with your myopic view could be exactly what needs to be filtered in. Look at the world you see all day, every day from a different position. Consider a price change, a product development, or service experience from the point of view of the customer instead of how it affects your bottom line. Want to make it as authentic of an experience as possible? Do more than think about it. Call your own company and see what it’s like to be put on hold. Try role-playing and being your customer to your marketing or sales team. Get them to pitch your services to you. What will you see when you look at your business from another angle?
Then do something with this new information, this new viewpoint that you have considered. If you’ve done it right, you’re going to be uncomfortable. Your bedrock has been shaken. On top of that, you’re most likely creating more work because the answers to those questions inevitably demand creation of something new. After all, innovation only comes from seeing things from an unexpected place…like from on a desk.
So stand tall, gaze out at the world you know from a place that makes it look slightly unrecognizable. Then keep that experience with you and let it change what needs to change. Or fall in line and stay safely unrecognizable from the herd.