Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The First Digging: Observation

Hi! This post is fifth in a series about Digging for Treasure: Learning to Teach What You Know. The other posts are linked at the end of this one.

So you’ve found something you know really well. Your treasure! And you want to share it with other people. It’s time to start working on that! What will your first step be?

Remember that when you know something well, your knowledge is subconscious. There are parts of it that you’re not even aware of.

Observing

Photo by USACE Europe District
So your next step is quite simple, but also magical. You go about your business, using your skill and paying close attention to the details. You watch yourself.

Plan your next party. Talk to your teenager. Put charcoal to paper. Observe with all of your senses: look, listen, touch, taste, feel. How does the living room look when it’s all ready for your guests? How does your child’s voice sound when he’s just about ready to start really talking to you? How does the charcoal feel as it moves across the grain?

You’re also going to think back to past times when you used this skill. You’ll think about how you learned it, decisions you had to make, problems you’ve encountered.

If your subject is an experience you’ve lived through, you’ll need to relive it in your memory. (This can take courage if it was a difficult experience!)

Every detail you think of is a bit of treasure. Don't worry about sorting them now! That's a different stage.

Finding Stories

I’m going to harp on stories all the way through this process. People learn best through stories. They engage, they think, they identify with you. They're entertained. They remember.

So you’re going to be looking for stories. Not necessarily epic novels. But small narratives that share what this process is really like. How did I decide what colors to mix to make the grey fur in my gorilla painting? What did the teacher say to the child who was melting down because he made a mistake?

How did you actually do this piece of your process?

Finding Feelings

And you’re going to pay attention to emotions—another thing that helps people to latch on to the concepts you want them to understand. Your emotions.

What was the frustration like when you decided your first design wasn’t worth keeping? How did you move through that to the next piece of sketch paper?

How can I describe the little click of satisfaction I get when I find another discussion that fits into an index heading I already made?

And anything funny is pure gold!

Learning

And you’re going to see things you never saw before. This kind of observation will give you a completely different angle on your knowledge and your process. You will actually know more when you’re done.

Next: what to do with all of those observations.

Comments: have you ever tried observing yourself like this? What was it like?

The Digging for Treasure series so far:

Digging for Treasure: My First Dig
Digging for Treasure: At School 
Knowing Without Knowing 
The Survey: Discovering Your Deep Knowledge

10 comments:

  1. Such good advice! In fact, it inspires me to share a .... story... :-)

    Years ago I was interviewing an internal candidate for a position on my team. She asked me something no one else thought to ask.... What made ME successful at doing the job?

    At first it took me off guard. I mentally stumbled and grabbed for the only thing I could - a few stories. After I shared a few short stories with her I was able to easily articulate EXACTLY what made me successful at the job.

    I hired her. And, to date, she was the best person on our team.

    You're a genius!

    ReplyDelete
  2. No, you are! That's exactly the power of stories! Save that one!

    ReplyDelete
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