"IN ORDER TO SOLVE COMPLEX PROBLEMS, WE HAVE TO WORK ACROSS BOUNDARIES. THIS APPLIES TO COMPANIES, SCHOOLS, MUNICIPALITIES, REGIONS, AND ASSOCIATIONS – EVERYWHERE"
You’ve written a handbook about how to actively hop out of your own bubble and into someone else’s as a specific means to increase your own understanding and empathy. The book is entitled “Bubble-Hopping – A Method for Understanding Others”. The title is inspired by the software developer Max Hawkin’s expression “bubble-hopping”, and you have tested the method on thousands of people. The book has also garnered a lot of media attention. How can bubble-hopping help me as a leader grow and achieve my goals?
– The purpose of the book is to give you ideas on exercises that help you practice considering other perspectives, listening to others’ opinions, and understanding those opinions. You can use them yourself or implement them in your organization to help foster understanding between different departments, professions, or generations – or within a single team. Practicing listening and considering different perspectives is also good for establishing psychological safety in a team, Emma explains.
Boundary spanning – working across boundaries
In business language, the term used is “boundary spanning”, which is the ability to collaborate and communicate effectively between departments, functions, hierarchical levels, organizations, and cultures.
-- In order to solve complex problems, we have to work across boundaries. This applies to companies, schools, municipalities, regions, and associations – everywhere.
Often we just assume that “collaboration across boundaries” will just magically work, but differences can become a very real problem. Bubble-hopping is about transforming those differences into strengths rather than barriers.
How do you think leaders should approach this?
-- There is a lot out there indicating that we are all moving away from each other, not just in society as a whole but in our workplaces too. We talk about working together, and yet we stay within our silos. As a result, we don’t understand each other, which is not conducive to collaboration or growth. The “us-and-them” mentality is far too common.
-- When we teach bubble-hopping, we start by painting a picture of our own “bubbles”, those groups we feel the strongest sense of belonging to. We then talk about the theory behind bubbles — why they exist, why they’re important, but also how we can build bridges between them. We also make a point to spend time discussing why it is important to meet and try to understand those people that are different from us. After that, we work on practical skills to help achieve all this. Last but not least, we reflect on how everything went and what we learned about ourselves and others.
Bubble-hopping enables you to:
- Broaden your horizon and be innovative.
- Have productive conversations with people that have differing opinions.
- Handle complicated situations by considering different perspectives and solutions.
- Work more effectively with others.
– A lot of people understand the benefits of exchanging perspectives, but they still need inspiration on how to go about it. That is where the book comes in and guides you.
What are some of the most important qualities of a successful leader and how can you develop those qualities?
– A successful leader inspires others to grow and reach their full potential. The important part isn’t necessarily the leader themselves, but rather the act of lifting others up. Often they are good at listening and understanding their time, their surroundings, and their team. Bubble-hopping is a way to grow, as you become aware of things you otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to see or understand.
Emma’s advice to leaders who want to develop their ability to handle and solve conflicts or improve their communication:
- Work on putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. If you have a conflict, try switching perspectives. See if you can express each other’s opinions in a way that honestly conveys the other’s position. You can maybe even role-play as each other.
- Let the leadership team switch places with the youngest employees during a meeting and keep it light. Don’t be afraid to play around. The point of all of this is to help increase understanding and empathy among your colleagues and fellows.
- You can always revert to the basics: asking questions, listening, and sharing with others. The book includes a lot of fun exercises, for example, “question-storming” as opposed to brainstorming.
- I also give advice in the book on other exercises that are designed, for example, to create trust, practice intellectual humility, handle conflicts, and so much more.
Excerpt from the book, “Bubble-Hopping. A Method for Understanding Others” (Volante 2023)
Bubble-hopping is about getting out of your own bubble and meeting someone from another bubble. That person can be someone with different beliefs, opinions, knowledge, or experiences. The goal is to try to understand and broaden each other’s perspectives.
Being a bubble-hopper is, to a large extent, an attitude. An approach to life. A curiosity in others. A desire to grow and broaden your own and others’ perspectives. And yes, it may seem trite. Who isn’t curious about others? Who can’t have a constructive conversation? How hard can it be?
The truth is that, in practice, it is quite difficult – especially if your thoughts and opinions are different from someone else’s. Of course, there are people that are incredible at listening, asking questions, and conversing respectfully — no matter who they meet. But those people are few and far between. Most of us still need to practice.
Emma Stenström is the program director for Leadershift, a leadership program for those who want to create change and continuous personal and professional growth. In this program, you will learn about Bubble-Hopping, gain new tools, fresh insights, and the confidence needed to drive development.
Do you have any questions?
For more information about the program, please contact Daniel Engblom, tel: +46 707 54 21 65, email@example.com