Being Observant

Imagine that you are Edwin Cox.  The year is 1917.  You are trying to sell aluminum pots and pans, but having little success.  No one saw a need to replace cast iron with aluminum.  Cox decided to provide a free gift with every purchase.  The problem with all pots and pans was cleaning them of the crusting food remains.  Steel pads were used but werent very effective.  What Cox did was to combine the steel pad with soap.  The resultant product was an SOS pad.  What Cox did wasnt that remarkable, but he was observant.

Most of what we find commonplace today began with people who were observant.

  • Charles Stilwell created a brown paper bag that had a flat bottom that made it easy for grocery stores to use.
  • William Lyman developed a product that could open cans that eliminated the use of shop tools.
  • Hugh Moore developed a disposable paper cup so people could get a drink of water without drinking from a communal drinking cup.

Being observant is a skill that transcends all facets of our life.  Whether we are observing people, business processes, societal trends, medical conditions, uses of technology or anything that defines us, our ability to be observant is essential.

To be more observant, try this.  Select something you are very familiar with (e.g. your kitchen).  Look closely and see how many improvements you can identify.  The results will shock you.  Now, make this a regular practice.

Think about your own education.  How were you taught to be observant?  You probably dont recall a class on being observant.  Why is that?  Maybe observation skills arent recognized as something we need to teach.  Maybe we dont believe that you can teach a person to be observant.  Its very likely that we dont teach observation skills because we dont know how to teach them.  Or maybe we just dont SEE the need?

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“To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.”
– Marilyn vos Savant (author and playwright)

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