When did you last make time to observe?
To get out of your workspace and give your attention to the daily activities in your organization.
Notice I did not say analyze, diagnose, fix or monitor.
Has it even crossed your mind?
You have data.
You have intuition.
You have information.
You have so much to do.
Why spend time observing?
You might struggle with anything the requires you to quiet your mind and simply pay attention.
It doesn’t feel productive.
That’s because the act of observing isn’t shrinking your to-do list.
It’s probably not one of your performance objectives.
Maybe it should be.
Observation expands perception.
Throughout the centuries scientists, philosophers and yes, even leaders, have harnessed the power of observation to solve problems and make new discoveries.
When you make time to observe…
- You make new connections.
- You uncover hidden details.
- You become a better listener.
- You learn how work really gets done.
- You see how your decisions affect people.
- Your big picture is more grounded in reality.
- You gain insight into how the culture is evolving.
- You are better equipped for difficult conversations.
“Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.”
― William Wordsworth
If you want to reap the benefits of becoming a better observer you must act on your intention. Remember, everything else will try to push in front of this exercise. It falls into the category of important but not urgent.
- Make it a priority
This means creating space in your schedule.
- Shift into neutral
Try to see what is, not what you expect.
- Allow enough time
Give yourself an hour if possible.
- Ask questions
Check your assumptions.
- Don’t intervene
Resist the impulse to suggest or fix.
- Don’t analyze
Just log your observations.
Review your notes and distil the key points.
- Follow through
Test your observations and take action.
- Rinse and Repeat
With each observation, you learn something new.
The goal of this practice is to create new experiences and insights that can be applied to your decisions. Because your observations are filtered through the biases and beliefs you hold, it is important to confirm any conclusions through data, experiments, and feedback from others. The more you practice, the more skilled you will become at discerning fact from fiction.
Observation can be both intentional and natural. Every meeting, interaction, stroll through the office, etc. presents you with new opportunities to observe and expand your awareness.
You can also learn the art of observation through regular, personal habits such as meditation and nature walks. Practice using all your senses to capture the details of the moment.
Slow down, observe and see you’ve been missing.