IdeaEcos Message Board › Summary: Observation Skill on Sept 19, 2013 (Part 1)
This evening we looked at the skill of observation. It is the first of thirteen skills for creative thinking
described by Robert & Michele Root-Bernstein in their book Sparks of Genius The 13 Thinking Skills of
the World's Most Creative People.
The conversation this evening was lively! We started out with introductions and a short description of the
projects or slow-hunches each of us are currently perusing. There is quite a variety.
Elena is working with a dance troupe preparing for a Russian Dance and Cultural Arts festival. It is scheduled
for November 23rd.
Doug has worked the Lumosity web-site for several months and is currently looking at a similar site hosted by
Mensa. The latter has better graphics, though they may not have the full statistical summaries provided by Lumosity.
Curt is preparing for an R. Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller weekend seminar located at the Walker Arts Museum. There is a lecture by a film producer on Thursday night followed by a film about Fuller on Friday. Curt is planing his own webinar for the next day on Saturday. Curt has taught a class on Bucky Fuller for several years at the
Minneapolis College of Arts & Design (MCAD). The Walker event is scheduled for October 10-12th.
I am compiling a summary of Deliberate Practice composed of a model, heuristics, and hands-on activities gathered from several sources. It will be a method for self-directed learning.
Vic recently read a significant book that has made quite an impression on him. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries has multiple layers. Vic and some associates have been writing a book on how to operate in a complex, adaptive environment. He feels The Lean Startup speaks cogently about that topic. On the surface its an excellent book abut how to start a company and the vagaries an entrepreneur will encounter. However, below the surface the book describes the fail-fast, fail-often, adapt, restart process of succeeding in a complex adaptive environment.
Finally, there is chocolate heaven. Greg wins the "I'm envious" award for the evening with a planned trip to a chocolate festival in Paris France! In addition, he will be shortly attending a conference at the Omega Institute in New York for the Where We Go From Here conference. It features well known speakers, including a former US President.
How observant are you? A little optical illusion exercise with many perspective errors helps to warm-up. It is a picture of an 18th century landscape with buildings, fields, forests, animals and people engaged in fishing, hunting, and other pursuits. There were many intentional mistakes of perspective - elements overlapping where they should not and incorrect size relationship as well as others. It was an exercise to prime observation.
I handed out a summary of the Observation chapter in the Root-Berstein book. One-half is a summary of the training and experiences of notable artists, writers, and scientists in observing. The key quote from the chapter is "Observing is a form of thinking, and thinking is a form of observing" (pg 43). Great work, in a zen-like manner, derives from the most difficult activity of simply looking.
The other half of the summary is a list of activities with which to engage observation. Many are from the chapter with several additions I thought up as extensions or found in other sources. I include hands-on
activities as opportunities for Deliberate Practice in improving one's own observational skills.
The summary is organized around our six, human senses. Yes, you heard correctly. There are the five traditional senses with a sixth one proposed by Daniel Chamovitz in his book What A Plant Knows. The sixth sense is proprioception - the sense of balance or kinesthetic awareness of our bodies in three dimensional space. This is the book we discussed in our August 2013 meeting.
As participants looked over the observation summary, personal experiences and references sparked our discussion. Elena questioned the assertion that cold-water and warm-water sea-shells didn't have different textures of hard versus chalky. Curt pointed out the detail I had failed to notate in my summary of a blind-scientist who observed the sea-shell texture difference. That scientist, Geerat Vermeij, was able to discern shells in a tactile three-dimensional mode missed by those of us relying too much on sight.
Curt and Greg extended the sea shell reference to research indicating what we actually hear in a sea shell. Its not the ocean we all thought as kids. Rather it is the sound of our own blood flow!.
Greg suggested a recently developed new field entitled Multi-Sensory Anthropology and a couple of books relating to sensory experiences. Other cultures do not divide the senses as Western cultures do nor do they emphasize the same senses as primary over other perceptions. The new perspective is to consider senses as "cultural-systems" intrinsic to a culture providing new insights in culture's development.
The books Greg mentioned support this new idea. They are
1. Empire of the Senses: The Sensual Culture Reader by David Howes and
2. A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman
(related NOVA series entitled "Mystery of the Senses")
( for more see Part 2 Summary of Observation Skill Sept 19, 2013 )