The Experiment With a Rat

No ... I did not experiment with a rat; at least, not recently. I remember peforming some type of surgery removing body parts from a white rat in high school, but that was a LONG time ago, and has no relevance to the topic at hand. Have you heard of Carl Rakosi?  He was a poet - a Marxist - a University of Wisconsin alumni. I did not know he existed until Friday. I was leading a session on change at Physician Leadership College, when a participant shared a brief poem with me. She had seen it on the side of the bus many years ago and thought the message in the poem was relevant to our discussion regarding change.

The Experiment with a Rat by Carl Rakosi

Everytime I nudge that spring, a bell rings and a man walks out of a cage and brings me cheese. How did he fall into my power?

Let me share the context ... when I teach leaders about change, one of the commonly repeated concepts is that everyone has a different perspective regarding the change - regarding priorities - regarding the leaders - regarding what is hard and what is easy. It is simply a foundational element of leading change, and if leaders do not consider alternative perspectives, they will not be successful.

Sometimes, I call this concept "frame of reference" and that makes even more sense to people.  We are the holder of the picture frame, and we are the only ones that can move it. When we shift the frame, we see a different picture or at least some elements of the picture look different than they did before we shifted. In typical conversations, we only hear a person's perspective (tip of the iceberg)  - we do not hear the rest of the picture (what lies below the surface). There are experiences, emotions, and thoughts that have led a person to have a certain perspective, and it is only in understanding those that we get a full picture. So, in change, it is critical for a leader to move the picture frame and try to see things differently.  It doesn't necessarily mean that a leader will really change their position or opinion after trying on various perspectives, but it will do two things ...

1) It will strengthen the relationships with others because the leader took the time to understand instead of simply judging them as different or wrong and shutting the door.

2) When they return to their original frame of reference, it will be different because they have looked at it from a different perspective. A good metaphor here is when we go on a trip and come back home - we notice things that were there before we left, but because we have experienced other things, home will appear a bit different.

This wisdom is not just helpful for leaders, but for all of us. When someone sees things differently, it might be fun to shift the frame and look at it from where they stand ... it will certainly be interesting!

Make sense?  I'd love to hear your comments on this - share a thought or a personal example or a metaphor. This random wisdom belongs to all of us ...