The Art of Noticing

In conditions of uncertainty, the most vital thing is to notice what is going on around us. Everything else depends on it. The challenge is that uncertainty triggers fear, which makes us focus on the source of what is alarming us. When that source is tangible, like a tiger, that’s useful, but when what triggers it is stories we tell ourselves, not so much. The stories multiply and mix, and before we know it, we are stuck, hunting for a source of fear that doesn’t really exist.

Bees are better equipped than us. They have three small eyes, or Ocellli, for navigating and orienting themselves and two compound eyes, which each comprise thousands of individual lenses to do the essential work of figuring out the detail of their environment. (They also don’t make up stories to frighten themselves). Unless we’re Spiderman, we can’t do that.

Each of us senses the world differently. We see things differently, hear what is said by others differently, and interpret what we feel on a very individual basis. That means, however, that when things are uncertain, we have very a restricted data set. We can, however, simulate a compound eye through the art of conversation. We can notice together.

Noticing conversations are very different from our everyday conversations, which are often very topic-specific and focused – the business of navigating our way through the day and orienting ourselves. Think of them as Ocelli conversations. 

Noticing conversations require a ‘compound eye” approach. A group of people together who trust and depend on each other, talking about what they see, hear, and feel about what is going on—no agenda, no politics, no fear – just noticing. 

Weaving together individual observations into a compound view more accurate than any individual can do alone. Not having an agenda and being open to noticing reduces the danger of groupthink, and trust enables truths to be spoken and reduces the risk of unconscious bias.

Noticing conversations is not about solving problems; they have a clear view and an understanding of where the issues are really coming from, not just assuming. Noticing requires honesty, integrity, courage and commitment. They are not for the faint-hearted. They are the sort of conversations we have been having at Originize for the last year.

They are counter-intuitive. When we are under pressure, we want to act and noticing conversations require that we slow down. It is challenging to notice and engage all our senses while we are busy doing. 

Developing the art of noticing is hard work, but it may just keep you out of the wrong sort of trouble when things are uncertain. 

It’s a skill worth developing. 

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