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Learning to See


One of my favorite television series is Brain Games on National Geographic channel (braingames.nationalgeographic.com), which often challenges how our brain interprets what we see and that what “we see”  often doesn’t reflect reality.  This was further exemplified by a quote from Milton Glaser: “We are always looking but we never see.”  All this simply reinforces for me the power and value of effective direct observation but also reinforces the difficulty.

We live in visual world.  One third of our brain is devoted to vision and our brain relies on visual perceptions to build a trustworthy reality, so it would seem reasonable that we should try and get it right. One of the reasons that we stress looking at work with the lens of activities, connections, flows and outputs (ACFO) is because it provides a focus on process versus people.

However, equally important is that it provides perspective.  The brain is constantly drawing on passed experiences to make assumptions and converts objects into meaning so by understanding and focusing specifically on ACFO we provide the brain the context, or content, to more accurately interpret the current reality.

I’m not trying to be a psychologist, I am simply trying to find and share new, innovative, yet practical, tips to improve the skill of direct observation.

  • Pay attention—Effectively observing work requires attention. It has to be practiced with a singular intention and free of distractions. Attention forces you to think.  It’s kind of a Jedi mind thing for you Star Wars fans.
  • Sharing—Use pictures, videos, diagrams or any other visual means to share what you see and ask what someone else sees, and then compare.  Your initial picture is often less accurate than the picture it spawns.
  • Teamwork—Work together.  Look where they are looking (deictic gaze) and ask what they see, and visa-versa.  Value dialogue.
  • Do what it takes—Take the time, make it a part of your standard work, practice.

Try these simple techniques. They work.