Perspective-taking is, trying to see the things from other’s point of view, or what is being called by “being in one’s shoes“.
Mr. Ingvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA said that the job of a business leader is to serve the majority of stake-holders. It becomes imperative then that the leader must find, what the people want.
But whether perspective taking actually works or not, there is no research on that.
HBS recently did a series of 25 experiments. A total of 2,816 people (undergrads, MBA students, Mechanical Turk workers, and other working adults) from the U.S. and Israel . This was to understand the phenomena of perspective-taking. These people were asked to predict the thoughts, feelings, and preferences of other people. These ‘other people’ ranged from complete strangers to spouses. The finding is perspective-taking did not have the effect it’s often expected to (via).
When you ask people to perform perspective-taking, they have been less accurate in predicting the outcome. More often, in the case of complete strangers.
The truth is that, perspective-taking does not lead to reading of mind of other people.
What could actually work is asking people for some information, which could be then processed to come at a conclusion. Asking for information, is almost akin to reading one’s mind and hence much more credible than pure play imagination of hit and miss. This is being called Perspective-Getting.
So if business leaders need to find out what a group of person feels about a certain issue, the best way is to interact and ask them straight. In fact, research has proved that perspective-getting is much more successful than perspective-taking.
An attempt to understand the mind of another person, is unlikely to benefit from imagining yourself in that person’s shoes and guessing what that person feels or wants. Understanding other people requires getting perspective, not taking it. To understand the mind of another person, we need to rely on our ears more than our intuition.