Safety observation reports are great documents in getting staff to think outside the box and see the whole world they work within not just their normal job duties. And lots of companies require staff to submit these sheets for a variety of reasons, everything from fixing hazards to preventing incident for not just themselves but others, a task of you are your brother’s keeper!
And most folks find them a bother or a hiccup in their normal work day, or they submit over and over the same risks, not that the risks are not present or corrected, it is because they are not taught how to enhance their observation skills like HOLMES, the great detective. Improving observation skills is more involved than just remembering to “pay attention.” We need to understand how our brains work for us—and even against us—to gain strategies for managing distractions and improving our observation skills.
It’s easy to not pay attention to the world. We lower our eyes when we walk and avoid eye contact at the supermarket or play Pokeman Go and walk into a brick wall. For most of us, our default state tends to be ignoring what’s around us. But doing so makes us miss out on inspiration and fails to develop our curiosities. Here’s how to train yourself to pay a little more attention to the world around you.
Observations depend on the level of interest, stress, concentration, and the amount and kind of distractions present.
Prejudices, personal beliefs, motives, and any lapse in time since the occurrence can also have an affect.
We know that getting out and taking a walk can boost creativity on the worksite and a little mindfulness can help with all sorts of things. But neither of those is useful if you’re still gazing at your navel. Being observant means watching people, situations, and events, then thinking critically about what you see. We miss a lot in the world while we’re busy shuffling between here and there. While there’s no way to quantify how that affects our well being, it’s clear the more you pay attention, the more often you’ll come up with new ideas. If nothing else, you’ll expand your worldview. First, you have to train yourself to pay attention again.
Our brains aren’t meant to see everything. We focus on specific things, then filter out everything else. This is great in most cases, because if we paid attention to everything, we’d miss what’s important. However, you can tune your brain to pay attention to new things with a bit of practice.
Whether you’re starting a new job, exploring a JSA, or just trying to expand your skillset, you need to retrain your brain to pay attention to what’s important at that moment.
The most frequently used types of observational techniques used daily are:
- Personal observation
- observing products in use to detect usage patterns and problems
- observing license plates in store parking lots
- determining the socio-economic status of shoppers
- determining the level of package scrutiny
- determining the time it takes to make a purchase decision
- Mechanical observation
- eye-tracking analysis while subjects watch advertisements
- oculometers – what the subject is looking at
- pupilometers – how interested is the viewer
- electronic checkout scanners – records purchase behaviour
- on-site cameras in stores
- Nielsen box for tracking television station watching
- voice pitch meters – measures emotional reactions
- psychogalvanometer – measures galvanic skin response
- eye-tracking analysis while subjects watch advertisements
- retail audits to determine the quality of service in stores
- inventory audits to determine product acceptance
- shelf space audits
- Trace Analysis
- credit card records
- computer cookie records
- garbology – looking for traces of purchase patterns in garbage
- detecting store traffic patterns by observing the wear in the floor (long term) or the dirt on the floor (short term)
- exposure to advertisements
- Content analysis
- observe the content of magazines, television broadcasts, radio broadcasts, or newspapers, either articles, programs, or advertisements
It might sound counterintuitive that the best way to train yourself to observe more in the world is to learn what to ignore, but that’s the basic idea here.You can’t pay attention to everything, so decide what you want to look for to retrain your eye. When you do, you’ll naturally come up with more ideas for any given subject. So is the picture a small stone trapped in brick wall opening or is a cigar place in a hole in the wall?
Here are just a few ideas to get you started.
- Watch people in crowded areas: If the first thing you do when you sit down in a crowded place is pull out your phone, stop. Spend some time taking it all in and watching people. Look at how they act in crowded spaces, how they interact with others, and how they navigate the rush of it all.
- Assign yourself a scavenger hunt: Pick something and look for it throughout your day. This could be anything, broken windows, security cameras, or a particular graffiti artist. Find it, take a picture, or note it. Look for more. When you’re done, try to figure out why that stuff is there.
- Watch the local news (or read the local paper): It might not seem like it, but the local news is a great way to get to know your city, faults and all. Since they tend to talk about local issues, it’s also a good way to learn about what’s happening in your neighborhood. This in turn helps you pay attention to all kinds of new things.
- Walk with an expert: Chances are, you have some friends with different careers and hobbies than you. Take a walk with them and they’ll teach you new things about the space around you. It might be local history, geology, or even typography.
You can choose any challenge that suits your needs. If you’re an app developer, it’s about paying attention to what people need, if you’re a writer, it’s about paying attention to what people are doing, and so on. Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone, though. Just because you have no aspirations to be a designer doesn’t mean you can’t take a week to notice the typography on local buildings. The trick is to challenge yourself to look at your everyday in a new way.
Inanimate objects are one thing, but observing and understanding people is a science unto itself. Most of us are pretty good at observing during high-tension situations, whether it’s during a fight, a first date, or a job interview, but we slack off during the everyday interactions.
Keep an Eye Out for Patterns Holmes
Observing is great and the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. But it’s far more useful once you can pick out the patterns. Tiny snippets of observations are helpful, but they’re not useful for creative or intellectual endeavors if you don’t have a broader view of how the world works. Detecting patterns and combining that with your experience is what allows you predict what happens next. The more you observe of the world and people, the better you become at detecting patterns. Subsequently, you get better at predicting what will happen next.
For example, anytime someone talks about reading body language, they’ll point out that it’s not a universal thing. You have to observe someone for a while, find their individual tics, then make an assumption based on that. If you’re not paying attention and observing, you’ll miss it. A verbal hiccup for one person might mean one thing for one person and another for someone else, so you need to search out the pattern. Maybe someone rubs their nose when they’re bluffing in poker, while a nose rub for someone else might mean they’re angry.
The same goes for anything you see out in the world. Observing the world is just the first step. Until you start piecing all that together into something larger, it’s hard to do anything with the information you gather. Regardless of what you do, hyper-observation can improve your ability to focus, listen and understand others. Remember, there’s a difference between observation and hyper-observation.
Lets do it in bite size steps not leaps and bounds Superman
Step 1 Your observations are only as good as your memory. Sharpen your mind with memory games, make a conscious effort to remember the names of new people you meet and use pneumonic devices.
Pay attention. Paying attention is about more than just seeing. It’s about purposeful awareness and mindfulness. To pay better attention to what’s going on around you, slow down and mind the details — like the condition of someone’s clothing, a sticky residue on a table, the smell of cheap perfume and background noises.
Keep an observation journal. Start simple and observe a bird that you see near picnic tables. Note the colors of the feathers, its size, the sounds of its chirps and how it bounces around. Describe what you think the bird’s intentions are and how it interacts with its environment.
Have an open mind and think critically. Biases and assumptions can get in the way of hyper-observation. The point of being hyper-observant is to gather facts, so note the things you see, hear, feel, smell and touch. To remain objective, don’t judge your environment or those in it. As you analyze the information that you gather, ask yourself why it’s important, why you want to remember the details and how the information you gathered connects to knowledge you already have.
Observe new things often. To become proficient at hyper-observation, it must become second nature — like a habit. Train your mind to observe new things by regularly looking at the world from a different angle. For example, spend some time in an area of your city with which you aren’t familiar. Take pictures of objects that look like the letters of the alphabet. Try new food. Look at a new piece of art daily.
Form connections. The Time article states that improving your observation skills requires integrating what you see, hear, taste, smell or touch with what you already know and what you think may be true. Enhance your hyper-observation skills by making logical connections with what you witness right away. For example, if you notice that a middle-aged man chews his fingernails and has pamphlets from different colleges sticking out of an attaché, you may form the connection that the man is stressed or anxious about a child going to college.
Meditate. When you want to improve your hyper-observation skills, you have to improve your focus. In addition to helping you relax, meditation is a practice that can help you learn to clear your mind of racing thoughts, which can get in the way of your observational skills. One way to meditate is to put on some relaxing music without lyrics, sit down in a position that’s comfortable and focus on your breathing for at least 10 minutes.
The police are taught this from day one in simple things like body language and the bad guy or person!
Naturally, the mere interest in body language might help you become more aware to it, just like when you learn any other new info – it makes you suddenly aware to it almost anywhere in your life.
But there is an even better observation training technique that I found to be very effective – asking questions.
You see, when you order your brain: “be alert to body language now!” Your brain responds by: “Come again? What specifically do you want me to look for?”
By asking questions you direct your mind to look at details you’ll otherwise miss. You can ask questions like:
Even if you think you don’t have a clue about body language you can still ask yourself more general questions that will help you learn and be aware:
- What type of personality is this person has?
- Does he look welcoming or defensive?
- If I had one word to describe this person, what would it be?
- Can I create a background story for him?
The purpose of these questions is not to judge people, and your answers may be very far from the truth, but, you train your mind to look for details that support your assumptions. If you decided that someone looks defensive – ask yourself why you think that way. Because he has a glaring stare? Because he crosses his arms? Because he wears a T- shirt that tells to “back off”?