How can I shift my perspective of the city when I am not aware of the perspective I hold?

IntegralCity Aliveness

A shift in perspective assumes that a change in my view occurs. Unpacking such a shift requires the answers to some basic questions:

  1. What is my current perspective?
  2. Why would I change it?
  3. How can I change it?
  4. When will I shift my perspective?

Starting with the first question, it is natural to ask, “Shift from what

[perspective] to what [perspective]?” It is the fundamental starting point of any change – become aware of where I stand, thus providing an awareness of me and my environment (or context).

The second question, may be one of internal motivation – should I choose (voluntarily) to shift my perspective? Or do external circumstances give me no choice? Have I been knocked off my current position by outside forces  – literally pushed aside by person(s), thing(s), idea(s) and/or circumstance(s)?

The third question emerges from the second, and brings our response and/or resources to shifting perspective into play – do I raise or lower my view – and by how much? Does my perspective become clearer? shorter? longer or change otherwise? when I include immediate, near or distant reference points of myself, others and place? This may even extend to including soft technologies like inquiry, facilitation processes or experimentation (as I negotiate perspectives with other individuals, groups, competitors, neighbourhoods) to hard technologies that change perspectives through the use of the microscope, telescope or satellite (to gain insights about biota, geography or GIS mapping systems).

The fourth question involves timing that may or may not allow for the answers to the first three questions to emerge gradually, orderly, chaotically, unexpectedly or instantly. Such timing may mean the difference between shifting perspective on my own terms (like learning a new skill or moving my place of residence) or without agreement (like being expropriated or catching a communicable disease) resulting in Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome or disability.

Each of these questions reveals a quality of systems thinking that we can use to help ourselves and others shift perspectives. Each question supports us to see (and respect) ourselves as a whole living system, in relationship to other whole living systems, within the larger context of dynamic place and environmental systems and ultimately the earth as a whole planetary system.

Shifting perspectives will inevitably lead us through using these questions to think through the systems about which we have perspectives. Thinking in systems impacts how we can shift perspectives and thus how we are able to adapt and innovate, design and lead, and grow and expand our capacity for caring, for the living systems we are, relate to and co-create.


(1) This was presented to Waterlution Toronto, Learning Lab Journey ” Exploring Complexity & Innovative Leadership Around Water & Energy in Ontario”. January 26, 2013. See also Systems Thinking: A Primer