What Monuments Can Teach Us About Perspective

How many viewpoints can a single event trigger? What about a series of events? I’m pretty sure the best answer is just “more than one.” Whether in front of a coworker or a client, we’re all bringing a unique collection of events, connections and lessons to the table. Every time.

These ideas and perspectives can create challenges. Even historic or events we view as “factual” have more nuance than our brains automatically give credit to.

In his book Factfulness, Swedish Doctor Hans Rosling lays out ten methods for expanding our world view. One of my favorite stories from the book was from a time he worked in modern Vietnam.

Rosling asked a local doctor that he’d become friendly with to see the Vietnam War monument in their country. “You mean the Resistance War Against America monument,” he corrected.

Perspective. Frame of reference. They’re a big deal.

They went to see a 3-foot high brass plate. Sensing disappointment, the doctor then took him to a 12-foot-high marble stone commemorating independence from the French. Seeing that this still was underwhelming, he offered to take him to see “the real monument.”

The doctor drove for a while and gestured towards the horizon, where Rosling could see a towering golden pagoda. This was the monument in honor of the lives lost during the war with China.

The war with China was fought off and on for 2,000 years.

The French occupation stretched over 200 years.

The Resistance War Against America lasted 20 years.

The size of each monument put time in proportion.

Without a proper comparison, Rosling wouldn’t have been able to understand the perspective through which the Vietnamese saw these 3 events.

With co-workers and clients – we have to attempt to understand by asking: what’s the monument? Why is it there? What’s the significance – to you?

Don’t just capture one absolute measurement, find the relative ones as well.

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