Looking at a situation from different perspectives is a key undervalued asset for businesses heading into the future chaotic age of business. In “Look: A Practical Guide for Improving Your Observational Skills” , professor and strategy consultant James Gilmore guides readers through a powerfully simple framework for turning the basic skill of observation into something extremely more powerful.
You might assume good leaders already possess observational skills. You might assume that products are properly inspected or that editors have pored over every detail in a manuscript. You might also assume that employees are taking proactive steps to stay safe. Still, you hear of product recalls, accidents, and simple factual errors that could have been avoided if the person only took the time to look. Look: A Practical Guide for Improving Your Observational Skills is a resource guide to improving observational skills to help in this regard. It is a guide to improving error prevention before the error occurs.
What is Look About?
Look connects the dots between observational skill and your goals. Essentially, the book states, the same skills used in the childhood game of “Hide and Go Seek” can help adults locate product defects, missed opportunities (like clients) or potential safety hazards. The author emphasizes this connection because we often make the mistaken assumption that observational skills don’t need to be trained. After all, it’s just a question of looking carefully, right?
Observational skills are more than just “looking.” They are a collection of skills that can be refined with time and practice (as the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes can attest!) Look, in particular, focuses on a primary observational skill: matching the correct observational perspective (long-distance, contrasting or focused) to your objective.
To teach readers how to do this, author James Gilmore introduces the concept of “Six Looking Glasses”, an idea he adapted from an expert in lateral thinking, Edward de Bono. As in de Bono’s “Six Hats” method, Gilmore explains how adopting specific mindsets allows an observer to achieve different perspectives. Specifically, Gilmore shows readers how to choose a “looking glass” to match the perspective and objective they want to achieve.
To show how this works, take an example given in the book of a person asked to check a car for damage. Ideally, the inspector would have a checklist of items to focus on. This approach is called the “magnifying glass” perspective. But let’s say that the inspector’s boss notices that a particular type of damage is under-reported. Instead of criticizing the employee, the manager might adopt a different “glass” (a different perspective testing out a different set of assumptions) and determine the results from using that perspective.
Gilmore is an author, writer, adjunct professor at the University of Virginia, lecturer and co-founder of Strategic Horizons, LLP. His book, “Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want” looks at how businesses can avoid being viewed as contrived, disingenuous or phony in a market where consumers are becoming increasingly perceptive.
What Was Best About Look?
The best part of Look is the physical and mental shift that Gilmore lays out for readers. Many books ask leaders to step outside of their current point of view to gain a new perspective. But few books actually show how they can do this. Look shows readers how to do this and gives them a framework to continue using their new found perspective — or even alter it further, if they wish! Gilmore’s book achieves this objective and reinforces the concept with a series of everyday examples — grocery shelves etc. — designed to help readers practice the observational skills he promotes.
What Could Have Been Done Differently?
Look approaches observational skills from two perspectives: the physical — how you actually look at something — and the mental — how you think about the way you look at something. The book’s emphasis, though, is predominantly on the physical perspective. In other words, Gilmore emphasizes teaching readers how to go out and look for stuff. More emphasis on the mental shift and the business implications of that shift might make the book a bit more helpful for business readers.
Why Read Look?
At its core, Look is about thinking. It’s about matching the right tool to the right strategy. Business owners can become excessively focused on one view of their business — this month’s sales numbers, for example. This can cause them to lose track of the bigger picture — long-term survival. Many business experts have commented on this failure, but few offer a mental framework for coping with it. Look provides that framework.
On top of that, the book could finally help you find those pesky car keys you’re always misplacing!