About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Developing different perspectives

This week, my family (on Winter Break) rented the movie Vantage Point. This is a thriller in which a crime is told through the vantage point of those affected by the crime. The story is rewound and told from the time when the story has relevance for that character's vantage point, with more information given than when you first saw the event. By the end of the movie, you have a very clear understanding of what happened and why.

This got me thinking about the possibility of using different vantage points when teaching a concept. Imagine teaching Pythagorean theory, for example, from the vantage point of an engineer, a construction worker, a mathematician, a philosopher (Pythagoras himself), an historian (this theory has held up for hundreds of years), and a socialogist. By the end of the lesson, students would have a deep understanding of the theory, but also how it can be used and how it was developed.

Perspective taking is an important factor in organizational communication, organizational learning, knowledge managment, and cross-cultural communication. As I wrote in an earlier post:

Related to knowledge (cognition) is perspective (social). For Rommetveit, perspective is vital in creating meaning (Hagtvet & Wold, 2003; Mortimer & Wertsch, 2003). Other researchers have identified the ability to take on others perspectives as examples of higher order thinking (Herrington & Oliver, 1999; Jarvela & Hakkinen, 2002; Wegerif, Mercer, & Dawes, 1999). Perspective taking requires that a person be able to understand another’s viewpoint, anticipate their responses, and present their position in such a way as to encourage mutual understanding. Including both social and cognitive elements, dialogue that leads to perspective taking requires intersubjectivity, or the recognition that the other person has a position, whether it is implicit or explicit (Hagtvet & Wold; Mortimer & Wertsch). The higher the level of reciprocity, in which there is an equal exchange of social and cognitive information, the greater the chance to achieve shared understanding (Hagtvet & Wold). However, even with the exchange of information, it is possible that there is a low level of shared understanding.

In other words, by developing the skills to understand others perpectives, we are going deeper than the exchange of information.

Integrating this into teaching

Next semester, I will be teaching a course on Consumer Behavior. One problem college level students have in learning marketing skills is their ability to understand the customer and realize that sales come from really knowing (and understanding) the customer, not from flashy marketing campaigns.

So I thought I might try to integrate the structure of Vantage point into my Consumer Behavior course. Using "purchasing decision making" as an example, I would look at the process from: individual's perspective, group or family's perspective, reference group's perceptive, marketing department perspective, organization's perspective, sales or customer service perspective, and advertising's perspective. As we look at the individual (students would do their own decision making analysis on how they chose their college), we would use the basic analysis, having students answer a series of questions. Looking at the family, I would have the students indicate the influence their family had on the decision, and what those factors were. Then I would have them look at the impact that the decision has had on the family. Next we would like at the influence this decision has had on their friends and work colleagues, and the impact the work colleagues and friends had on their decision. Next I would have people from the college look at the impact their decisions have on the college admissions, housing, departments. If there is an over abundance of applicants for one major, for example, what impact does that have on department, and what does the department do to address that issue?

Hopefully by looking at the different vantage points of this decision making process, students will have a much clearer view of customers, but also the organizational response to customer behaviors.

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