Re-Imagining Effective Work

Learning to See More

How do you learn to see what you can’t? Or to put it another way, how can you increase your ability to pay attention to and describe what presents itself before your eyes? It’s all there for the seeing, but if you lack the eyes to see, it might as well not be.

My wife often asks, “What do you think of the new flowers in the garden?” Or “Isn’t the blossom lovely on the tree this year” (although not in June in New Zealand, mind you). 

“Is it?” I say, casting an urgent glance out the window. And indeed, the flowers or blossom are there in all their glory, but while I’ve looked out the window many times, such visual delights haven’t registered at all. They present themselves. But my eyes don’t see them, just like she doesn’t notice other salient details that are “entirely obvious” to me. That’s what makes for a good partnership in life – seeing and sharing different perspectives and viewpoints.

But the question isn’t about flowers and blossoms, but rather about the way we organise work, structure teams, and push forward on new product development. Each person will see certain aspects of the current reality and may have ideas on how the current reality could be enhanced. But what one sees is hidden from another. Which means there are two challenges that go hand-in-hand:

  • Being able to describe what you see in appropriate detail and intensity, so others can – perhaps – see it too; and
  • Being able to hear what is being described by another, appropriate to its detail and salience for whatever needs to happen next.

Each person bears the dual responsibility to describe what they see and to hear what is described. And there’s a third responsibility too, although how distributed this is remains open to interpretation: developing the ability to see what they have been unable to see previously. How do you do that?




Learn the vocabulary to describe the visible attributes.

Attempt description.

Seek feedback from others who can already see what you are only just learning to see.

Ask someone else to describe what they see – and check your own faltering early attempts against what they say.

Compare and contrast.