Category Archives: Dan Roam

What is the difference in looking at a problem versus seeing a problem?

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In graphic design, art, photography, and almost every situation we find ourselves in there is a distinct difference between looking and seeing. Click here for a 40 minute video on learning the difference between these terms. You will perceive art (and possibly situations) in a new way if you have the time to watch. The concepts of looking and seeing can be taken in different directions, but I am hoping we can universally agree that it is a similar difference to hearing versus listening.

Do you see what I see? Tell me about it.

This is the link that really got me thinking on this topic and wanting to write about perception. Dan Roam’s book, The Back of the Napkin, is a phenomenal read, and has given me some good ideas to bring into a meeting or classroom environment. The coolest section of the book is Chapter 15, “Everything I Know about Business I Learned in Show-and-Tell.” The major lesson revealed here is that we learned in kindergarten how to look, to see, to imagine, and to show.  Nobody since our childhood has told us how to talk about what we see, and it’s an art most of us forgot how to do. The problem around the concept is that “Show” and “Tell” are two different words. In this book’s context Looking (and telling) means to start the tour of the picture, situation or thing you are looking at, pointing out its interesting features. Seeing (and telling) is about pointing out what is most important, including things that are missing. Imagining (and telling) gets us to talk about what could happen, including options that may present themselves in the immediate future. Showing (and telling) is the final piece – explaining your interpretation of the picture, situation, or thing, and asking if anyone else sees the same things, and agrees on potential options.

Where can I get some examples of perception looking/seeing or hearing/listening?

Lucky for us, there are tons of examples available free online! Feel free to suggest some back. I’m always wanting to see something new and wonderful. Here are some of my favorites:

Click here for the amazing color changing card trick, which will teach you a perception lesson (I use this one in observation training).

Click here for one a little off the wall, but it is still about perceiving something by the way it sounds.

Click here for a funny Kmart marketing strategy where they count on your to hear, more than listen.

Click here for a very clever video put together using 20 year old footage and a lot of creativity.  Why do I think this applies? The man who made this video had to have a clear vision of the end product to make this work.

How does this translate to Human Performance Tools?

In your job site review! When you get to the job site and you are taking a couple of minutes to get acquainted with your environment, you should be “seeing” potential pit falls, error precursors, and job hazards.

While having a pre-job brief! You need to be “hearing” what the job lead is saying, not just checking off boxes because you have to cover certain checklist items before it is through.

Procedure Use and Adherence! What is the procedure telling me to do versus what am I supposed to do to achieve the mission? Maybe the job needs to stop and the procedure fixed if something is not aligned.

I’m sure you can find applications in questioning attitude and stopping when unsure, as well.