Perspective Taking: The Power of Ten

Great innovators often see problems or solutions that others miss. This is as much about perception as it is anything else.

To illustrate the power of perception, consider the famous perceptual illusion below which profiles a young girl and an old woman (or “wife” and “mother in law”). The image, which dates back to 1888, shows how the same image can produce two very different stories about the subject matter.

There’s a way to create the same effect by looking at a situation through the lens of time. The Power of Ten is a perceptual forecasting and innovative technique that can help you can perspective on a situation, a product, or service by looking at the effects in layers, each offering a new possibility.

How to do it

The Power of Ten technique is simple. Take the current situation, topic, product, or service and forecast what might happen in ten minutes from now, ten hours, ten days, ten weeks, ten months, and ten years.

In some cases, you’ll find little effect or difference between the two and in others the differences are dramatic.

Consider waiting times for a service call. In that case, ten minutes might be a long time and ten hours is insufferable. If you are on a waitlist for an elective surgery, ten days might be incredibly fast, ten weeks reasonable, and ten months is anxiety producing.

What about a particular situation? Consider the dynamic situation that unfolded with the COVID-19 pandemic and policies that affected how and where we work. Time perception changed, value changed (e.g., Internet access), and certain things like parks, groceries, restaurants and bars, and video conference tools all changed their value in a matter of days, weeks, and months in different ways.

The Power of Ten activity is designed for you to forecast and spend some time thinking about what will something look like, feel like, interact with, and impact the world at each of these different scales.

This simple exercise will allow you to see constraints, opportunities, effects, and interactions that are either not present or imperceptible at one scale at other scales. This allows you to see connections between things that were not perceived before.

This is best done as a group and can be performed in a short time as a facilitated activity or at a distance.

If you want to see possible futures using this approach and want help, contact us. We can help you multiply your perspective by a power of ten.

Note: This exercise draws inspiration for a video first produced in the 1970s by the legendary design partnership of Charles and Rey Eames for IBM.

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