Attention, Observation and Change

January 2015 · 2 minute read

It’s become a trend for me that the beginning of a new year is my guaranteed time for change. The major driver is unsurprisingly the holidays. On my days off I spend more time at home than normal and in doing so I start to think significantly differently. The outcome of this is the house gets my attention and I start to see things. Lots of little things that don’t seem in place any more or seem a little dusty. I clean, sort out, re-arrange.

Rolling off this enthusiastic change I get back to work and see the office with that same line of thinking. I tidy my desk, change its orientation and start dealing with the things that have been lingering. It’s amazing how things that have always been there start to stand out.


This topic has been raised in a Sherlock Holmes story under the banner of Seeing vs Observing and really just describes how most of our day is spent travelling through our environment rather than observing all the little elements.

There’s a very interesting TED talk by Apollo Robbins that discusses that it’s hard for us to take in everything so we focus our attention on only certain things and it’s that factor that magicians (or in his case pick pockets) use to do amazing things.

This reminded me of an event that I have instigated periodically over the last few years I like to call “walk in like a new customer day”.

The goal is for all staff to walk in and actually look around the office on the way back to their desk. We pick up things that are out of place, sort the book shelf, straighten up the pictures etc. The goal is to deal with all the things you never really noticed but new customers trying to judge who you are from a minute of looking around a room do.

It’s amazing how we get comfortable with mess and out of place things. The best part about a group effort to fix this is how everyone sees different things that you have been overlooking.