© Photo by Marek Piwnicki on Unsplash
20. October 2023

Can you feel with them?

Easier said than done. You might know what your stakeholders think – but to feel what moves them is a totally different story. When it comes to acknowledging different stakeholder views, we observe that we are mostly unconsciously trapped by what is called confirmation bias. We tend to consult only those stakeholder views that confirm our own views, and hide away from the critical voices or judge them as unimportant. In the case of e.g. the BoingMAX the critical voices of the pilots who voted for mandatory training before setting this new type of airplane in operation were raised. We all sadly have read about the humanitarian catastrophe and economic losses that followed.

The missing piece: “Tell me more”. When reading the report of the governmental examination board on the BoingMAX Case, it seems that the management treated the concern of the pilots written on a paper like one argument in an equation competing against others. What they missed out on is to embrace a more holistic understanding of the story behind it. This requires taking on “the other's shoes” for a moment and starts mostly with three words “Tell me more”. By discovering how the world “feels” from the other side, we are able to trace back what has led to this view which in turn opens up the possibility of finding common ground to integrate different interests.

An artful way to not only know but feel the different stakeholder views. The Netflix series “Playlist” telling the story of the rise of Spotify provides in my eyes a surprisingly valuable teaching moment to raise awareness about differing and conflicting stakeholder views for every manager. Why? Because we are forced over 6 episodes to take on the shoes of a different stakeholder view with all our senses, and with mind, heart, and hands.

Enriching understanding with compassion. The way we are poured into the story, we cannot withdraw to feel compassion with each stakeholder’s view. Taking on conflicting stakeholder views moves away from a purely intellectual act on an Excel sheet, involving only our minds. Instead, it becomes an “experience” of our hearts, how it feels to act and to live in the world from this perspective. Although I am not a dedicated nor sponsored Netflix fan, I think it’s a great example to raise our respect for each stakeholder view and why multi-stakeholder engagement can indeed be called an art.

Dr. Eva Bilhuber
Dr. Eva Bilhuber
Human Facts AG
Founder | Managing Partner
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