From déjà vu to vuja de: The Importance of New Perspectives

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June 08, 2016

From déjà vu to vuja de: The Importance of New Perspectives

By Tom Dente

President and CEO InsideNGO

On a trip to London last month, I had at last the opportunity to read Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, the new book by our keynote speaker for the InsideNGO 2016 Annual Conference, Adam Grant. Early in the book, Grant discusses how as human beings our nature is to "rationalize the status quo as legitimate." He calls this the "default system" and highlights the many perils of taking the status quo for granted and never questioning the default assumptions we make.

To counter this, Grant suggests flipping the old idea of déjà vu where we encounter something new but feel like we have experienced it before to a new approach, vuja de. Vuja de, Grant writes, "is the reverse—we face something familiar, but we see it with a fresh perspective that enables us to gain new insight from old problems."

Vuja de is the ongoing imperative—and culture—within our community. In my discussions with members and leaders across our sector, the shared view is that with the significant changes ahead, the next few years will be a time to be bold, experiment, and as one leader put it, "not be afraid to engage in creative destruction."

To challenge and upend the status quo, we need to constantly be mindful of three critical R’s: relevance, reinvention, and risk. Relevance means asking ourselves the question, are we relevant—essential—to changes in the status quo that are emerging for our organizations, our partners and the sector? Reinvention pushes us to put into practice the vuja de approach and demonstrate our willingness to challenge our default system of strategies, approaches, services, and roles. Finally, risk means thoughtfully experimenting in our work and being open to failing, as long as we can learn and improve.

What kind of organizational culture supports vuja de? Member Amy Coughenor Betancourt of NCBA CLUSA notes that one of their organizational values is "We learn, improve, adapt, and embrace change." For InsideNGO, we too are taking this challenge in our role to strengthen and support operational and organizational excellence. Our priority is to deeply listen to members when you voice your issues and concerns, to anticipate challenges and opportunities, and to not just reach back to familiar answers and assumptions of what is needed to deliver upon our promise to you. It means living vuja de team norms that generate new perspectives. Finally, it means fostering a spirit of creative collaboration as we move beyond the status quo to identify new and fresh ideas that will help all of us, together, achieve global impact.

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