A time for “slow looking”

We are wired to identify the familiar. We take in our surroundings and process the information to compare it to what we already know. The world we live in is so complex that doing anything else would paralyse us as we struggle to process it.

However, when much of the familiar has changed significantly or is disappearing altogether, it does not serve us well. We can see many people, including CEOs of major businesses, looking desperately for what they have been used to and knew how to deal with and even, like some latterday Monarch, instructing the court wizard to summon it into existence.

When we are busy looking in vain for the familiar, we are much less likely to spot the new replacing it. The seedlings of tomorrows normal. Spotting those is part talent but mostly skill and does not come naturally.

The most skilled people I know are early years educators and psychologists. They spend a lot of time training and working with young children to notice and document what and how they are learning. This is not the education of rote curricula and tests beloved of Government, but the professional curiosity of those dedicated to the child’s growth as a complete learner. The tradition I know best is that of Reggio Emelia, and it sits alongside others like Montessori, Bruner, Steiner and others with similar ethics and dedicated approaches.

I was reminded of this when Steve Done shared an article by educators on “slow looking“, and how learning how to look slowly helps children across a range of disciplines. The paper applies, in my opinion, equally to us, and I recommend it. (if you like it and want more, I suggest “Slow Looking” by Shari Tishman, which covers it in more depth).

When the pressure we feel urges us to go faster, slowing down may seem counter-intuitive, but in my view it’s critical if we are not to rush past what is going to be essential to our wellbeing in the future. 

I’ve learned much from Johnnie Moore about being unhurried and have brought it into my thinking around the slow, agenda-free conversation groups of us have been running for the last year at Originize as we have explored how to move out of the short term constraints of “defined outcomes” and short term performance to look at what is going on under the surface.

It is captured beautifully for me in this extract from “the Flame Trees of Thika”, memories of an African childhood by Elspeth Huxley:

The best way to find out things, if you come to think of it, is not to ask questions at all. If you fire off a question, it is like firing off a gun; bang it goes, and everything takes flight and runs for shelter. But if you sit quite still and pretend not to be looking, all the little facts will come and peck round your feet, situations will venture forth from thickets and intentions will creep out and sun themselves on a stone; and if you are very patient, you will see and understand a great deal more than a man with a gun.” 

As we go into whatever post-Covid will be, take the time to look slowly. What you notice may surprise you.

One response to “A time for “slow looking””

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