I had a moment where I was reminded how my perspective on things is not the only perspective. I was at Art Prize 2010 in Grand Rapids, Michigan and I was looking at the picture shown here. It is made out of 520 tiny cups that are 12 different shades of grey and the artist is James Freeman. So here is the trick with this picture – when you stand close to it all you see is grey cups, with just a faint image that there is a face in these cups. The farther you move away, the clearer the face becomes. For me, even moving away the image was never really all that clear.
How did I figure out this was a face? Well, my 7-year-old took a picture of it and announced to me “Daddy look – it is a face!” It turns out when take a picture from any distance the face appears. Apparently the artist created an image that exposes some of the limits to our minds ability to process the different shades of grey and be able to see the REAL image.
So where is the leadership lesson here? First, a gentle reminder that we often need help in seeing the real truth in anything – whether it is developing personal awareness of strengths/weaknesses/passions, finding the best solution to a problem, or becoming better leaders by knowing and dealing with our own constraints. Looking through our own eyes have some natural limitations.
Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to have a 7-year-old along to look at things a little differently. Or having a friend take a picture of us (have you taped one of your speeches lately?). Art reminds us that there are different ways of seeing the same thing, and having the courage to first ask the question “What do you see when you look at this?” is the first step. The second is waiting to hear the answer or answers, then giving time to consider the possibilities that differ from your own.
I initially just saw a bunch of grey cups. Thankfully someone else saw the art. Kudos to James Freeman for the leadership lesson in art. –www.jamesfreemanstudio.com