I’m busy refreshing part of a Systems course on which I lecture at University. In sifting through what’s still relevant, what must I update, I came across a distinction between Worldview and Perspective. Taken from The Open University Primer on Systems Thinking and Practice, Perspective is how things look from my current position. Worldview is how I see the world, regardless of my current position. Which got me thinking about empathy – don’t ask. Do both Perspective and Worldview influence empathy?
Adopting someone else’s Perspective – seeing things from their side – is beautifully captured in the expression “to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes”. That’s of course metaphorical, but what would it be like to literally walk a mile – in South Africa, 1.60934 kilometres – in someone else’s shoes? Driving to a meeting this morning, I was prompted to look at the shoes of the many street-corner beggars in Johannesburg. Walking a mile in their shoes, at this time of year, would be extremely cold. If they even have shoes. I then thought of a friend of mine, who wears a permanent leg & foot splint: how uncomfortable, constricting and down-right irritating that must be. How potentially limiting in both movement and perception of ability.
Having been with a group of company directors just last night, the absurd then caught me: imagine a Chairman (gender specificity deliberate) putting on the stilettos of one of his female directors, and walking, if not a mile, just around the office for a day. I cannot help but think that the consequent discomfort, unease, extreme difficulty, effort, and off-balanced pain may actually reflect the lived experience of many women on boards today.
Its quite a fun exercise: if I think of someone whose shoes I might borrow for a mile, I think my Perspective towards them will shift. So here’s an image: a group of people walking into a negotiating meeting, and the first thing they do is swap footwear……