Look: A Practical Guide for Improving Your Observational Skills
James H. Gilmore
Greenleaf Book Group Press (2016)
How and why “what you look at informs what you think about, which [then] influences what you act upon”
I share Jim Gilmore’s high regard for Edward de Bono and his insights concerning lateral thinking. The material in two of his books is of special interest and value to me: In Six Thinking Hats, he identifies and examines six different thinking modes (i.e. objective/analytical, emotional, cautious/skeptical, speculative, creative, and controlling); in Six Action Shoes, he focuses on six different thinking modes (i.e. (formal shoes, sneakers, brogues, gunboats, slippers, and riding boots). Each of the “hats” and “shoes” represents specific skills that must be mastered.
Gilmore suggests the need for another discipline for lateral thinking: Six Looking Glasses. They will help people to look more closely the world around them. “Indeed, observation is the fountainhead from which any and all subsequent thought and action takes place. We don’t think and act in a vacuum. When it comes to creating value in this world, this progression is always at work:
Looking > Thinking > Doing
“Simply put: What you look at informs you what to think about, which influences what you act upon.”
Ellen Langer has a great deal to say about the importance of highly developed observational skills. For example, “Mindlessness is pervasive. Most people much of the time are mindless. They are simply ‘not there. The problem is that when you’re not there you’re not there to know that you’re not there. The simple process of noticing new things is the key to being there. When we notice new things we come to see the world with the excitement of seeing and experiencing it for the first time, but with the comfort that of our previous life experience brings to the activity.”
With regard to the specific “looking” glasses, here they are:
o Binoculars: See both the forest and the trees
o Bifocals: Two different perspectives on the same object
o Magnifying glass: Enlarge object for a closer look
o Rose-colored-glasses: Seeing potential opportunities that may not otherwise be recognize
o Finally, the “blindfold”: Gilmore calls it “looking at looking.” That is, “all bets are off.” Many business executives are captive to what Jim O’Toole characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.” They cling to their assumptions and premises as a security blanket.
My take is that observation and evaluation should not be limited to what has been recognized thus far. The “blindfold” was one of Sherlock Holmes’s favorite among the six. “My dear Watson, let us not depend on what we may think we know…but in fact, more often than not, we really don’t. There is still more to consider…with an open mind.”
Gilmore devotes a separate chapter to each perspective, explaining how to strengthen the skills that are needed.
What Gilmore calls “looking and identifying” is what I call “observing and examining.” Whichever terms you prefer, the fact remains that all of us could be much more mindful, much more attentive to the world around us.
For example, years ago, upon my arrival home after an especially difficult day at the office, my wife greeted me. “What do you think about geraniums near the front door?” I immediately replied, “They look terrific! Very nice. I really like them.” Long pause. Then she said, “I intend to plant them this weekend.”
All of us need to improve our observational skills. In this lively as well as informative book, Jim Gilmore explains HOW. Bravo!