Do you recall the last time you just watched?

The following is the original and the rewrite can be found by clicking here.

I was early for a meeting and had the opportunity to sit quietly; just watching the world go by. The venue was a modern “Innovation Centre” that brought scientific research together with business and government to explore business opportunities... businessmen in their suites (some stylish and others not so much), doctors in their scrubs, researchers with their security tags, young women carrying thick binders and so on… some alone and others in groups; all with a purpose in mind. It was the everyday hustle and bustle of life.

I should clarify that when I say I was watching, it is not a passive event where I also read email, surfed the web and checked stock reports, but rather a very conscious activity -  Watching for how a person looked and acted, what they are doing, how they interact and react with their environment, etc. This is a thinly veiled segue into how with business and most other activities for that matter, there is nothing more important than knowing your customer*... how they act, what they need, how to interact with them, and how they are changing in a rapidly changing world... all that market research is just a sophisticated form of watching. 

Circling back to my active watching moment, I had quickly focused on a series of five large photographs** on display for people to view as they made their way through the Innovation Centre - And guess what? Not a single person stopped to look at them, and of the hundreds of people who walked by, less than a handful even glanced at them. I will wager that somewhere, someone is saying something along these lines, " Look what we have done, we are highlighting this local photographer, connecting with the community and enhancing the environment of the Innovation Centre!"

I will argue that since no one is even looking at the photographs, none of this is happening... it is as if the photographs were not even there. It looks "great on paper" as they say! Some thoughts quickly come to mind: 

  • The photographs simply weren't engaging for the demographic. 
  • The location just wasn't suitable for someone who is "on the go"... expecting them to stop and look at the photographs was not realistic.
  • There was no "call to action" or context for the photographs that would engage a person... such as a sign.
  • The same people may frequent the Innovation Centre, so they had seen the pictures many times and had become just part of the familiar landscape.

Personally, I believe that the photographs were in the wrong place, as this was a high traffic area and people were heading somewhere, with no interest or opportunity to stop. This was probably compounded by the lack of context regarding why the photographs were there. But, then again I would have to ask those people who "walked on by".

And this comes to the point and something that was re-enforced for me as I watched - We are busy (or make ourselves so) doing things, "making it happen" and "driving action", and if we are not truly watching what we do, as well as why we do it, our efforts will be misaligned and ultimately ineffective.

And of course everything is always changing, so active watching needs to be ever present.


* Business governance probably is a close second as a poorly run business inevitable goes down in a ball of flames. In the end however, if you are not intimate with your customer you will perish... guaranteed

** In my humble opinion the photographs were beautiful cityscapes and the work of a very talented photographer.