Notions of teamshufflr – Empathy and change of perspectives

Empathy lets you take the perspective of other people - as the thinking hats technique emphasizes.
Empathy lets you take the perspective of other people – as the thinking hats technique emphasizes.

In everyday situations, regardless of school, work or private environment, it can be of great benefit to be empathetic – to see through the eyes of another person, to identify with them and to realize that there can be a different perspective than our own. How often is the phrase „How would you feel in his/her shoes?“ or deviations of that used by parents and teachers alike? In our earlier blog post „Debate through the ages“, we suggested an idea to use teamshufflr in a class or workshop that can help participants develop such an understanding by acting as another person.

More Empathy with Creativity Techniques

This is one of the aspects we at teamshufflr want to bring to people: the change of perspective. It is not really a new approach. In the wide realm of creativity techniques for better ideation, there are several that go along that path. One of those ist the „Thinking hats“ technique which was introduced back in 1986 by Edward de Bono. [de Bono, Edward (1985). Six Thinking Hats: An Essential Approach to Business Management. Little, Brown, & Company. ISBN 0-316-17791-1]

In this technique, colored hats represent one style of thinking. The premise is that each person can attune to different attitudes, which influence the ideas one can have on a specific topic. To start, everyone in a group is assigned the same color, for the so-called „parallel thinking“. For example, in the first round, everyone would wear the yellow hat, which represents optimistic thinking. So in this round, no one is allowed anything but positive thoughts on the discussed idea or topic. In the next round, they would switch to the black hats, which represent a negative attitude, so they would nag on the same idea that they themselves promoted a few minutes earlier. The idea behind it is that there should be no discussions if every person is primed in the same direction, and that people who tend to be too extreme on ideas, either negative or positive, would be kindly forced to see the other side. The six colors and attributes are: blue – seeing the whole picture and managing, white – focus on facts, red – focus on emotions, black – focus on the negative, yellow – focus on the positive, green – focus on new ideas.

Walt Disney also helps!

A further development of this method is the so-called „Walt-Disney-Method“. This technique goes back to Robert B. Dilts, who once wrote on Walt Disney „…there were three different Walts: the dreamer, the realist, and the spoiler.“ [John Martin, Ros Bell, Eion Farmer: B822 – Technique Library. The Open University, Milton Keynes (USA) 2000 (SUP 50139 5)]. If you want to use this in a workshop you would split the people in groups of four (because a fourth role is added) and assign each of them a role: The dreamer (being positive, giving new ideas), the realist (pragmatic, uses logic to review the arguments of the others), the spoiler (criticize and question new ideas) and the neutral one (watches and mediates). After a conclusion is reached, the roles switch, so that the same group has to discuss the same topics from different viewpoints.

So why do we talk about creativity techniques here, when we want to emphasize empathy and a change of perspective? Because we think that teamshufflr can provide a similar value, and even combine the two techniques to take them to the next level: You can give each person a „De Bono”-hat at the beginning of the workshop, and put them in teams of parallel thinking in the first round – just use one feature of our teamshufflr app to represent each hat color. In the second round, you can shuffle the people into different teams while they keep their hat color as well as their attitude/role. Since the balance in each team can be tilted in different directions, the discussion will reach completely different conclusions. Also: be creative in varying and combining these techniques to fit them to your individual setting and problem! 

We will come back to the topic of empathy with new ideas for teamshufflr uses that help us see perspectives we might not have considered before. And – apart from the obvious advantages of being empathetic in a business context – we need more empathy and ability to understand someone else’s perspective in our polarized world. We at teamshufflr aim to make a small contribution to that.

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