Monday, May 09, 2005

Observation as Isthmus: Connecting Seeing/Listening with Understanding

Evelyn Rodriguez, at Crossroads Dispatches, writes an interesting post on observation after a reader of her blog describes her as a “New Age Californian”:

Basically, he was scanning his repertoire of worldviews and his frames of references to "figure" me out. I'm only picking on him because it is the umpteenth time of late I've personally experienced this pinning down.

The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution. - Paul Cezanne

We all do this all the time. One of the functions of the brain is to filter and pattern match: oh, yes table, not new information. No need to process its texture, the craftsmanship, the woodgrain, or to touch this one. Table, check, done.

I am including a large portion of her post because I do not want to dilute her meaning here:

Before we concoct stories - and many marketers are fairly proficient at creating, telling and spreading stories - we could use a refresher course in observation and listening.

Observe all men, thyself most. - Benjamin Franklin

Observation is especially key at the fuzzy front end of marketing - at the innovation stage. Even more cost-draining and time-consuming than the wrong sales pitch is if you built your entire product on the wrong premise.

Originality is simply a pair of fresh eyes. - Thomas Wentworth Higginson

One of the most challenging skills in the world has got to be seeing things from the perspective of the customer, the employee, the partner, the supplier, the person sitting on the other side of the table from you – because we are constantly filtering everything through our own perspective and making unconscious, assumptive leaps about others based on our perspectives, our decision-making framework, our autobiographies, our experiences with others beforehand, and our frame of reference.

I made a promise to keep a watch over myself, to remain master of myself, so that I might become a sure observer. - Paul Gauguin

This is a big topic and this post can't do justice to it. One helpful practice is to practice observing - versus thinking - when you are in any one-on-one with another person. It's called bare attention by Buddhists. Observing is not thinking. You note, register, observe mentally what's arising moment by moment. You're not thinking "about", needing to do something "with", and most importantly not comparing or putting things in relation to anything. You can always do the analysis later.

In Anthropology this is called “participant observation” or, tangentially, being “culturally relative.”

Rodriguez’s discussion inspired me to put the above into practice when I am ‘assessing’ myself. How often do we attempt to categorize ourselves and find the result to be a cramming of our unique character traits into a pre-formulated standard that does not accurately represent the diversity of ‘us’? How many of us are truly observing ourselves? If we do not know ourselves or are mislabelling ourselves, how can we possibly hope to have the inner compass/context to observe the other?


Post a Comment

<< Home