The art of noticing is the art of leadership - powerful connections between art and business

The art of noticing is the art of leadership - powerful connections between art and business

The art of noticing is the art of leadership and management.

Good managers and leaders notice what is happening around them. They develop skills to solve systemic issues.

Here’s a video digging deeper into this:

The art of noticing is about noticing the world around you, how people interact with it, how people make sense of it and how you construct meaning from it, is an important series of skills for leaders and managers – and anyone else in work.

Effective employees are extremely good at widening their awareness and studying what is happening in a business.

There are many ways to study in a business such as stapling yourself to work, spotting levers of change or learning how to understand how communication flows in the business. But one of the most powerful ways I’ve found, is to learn an artistic craft. The skills you learn from an artistic craft are directly transferable to the world of work, more so than many people would appreciate.

The Art of Noticing

I like to write stories, draw and make films – and all of these crafts require you to notice the world around you. They require you to study and notice, and then weave what you’re observing into your art. Whether that be a painting of a landscape, or funny observations from society, or telling a story about someone; they are all reflections of what we see and study and choose to notice.

For me, one of the most powerful creative pursuits that lends itself well to this analogy, is photography.

I’ve found that the more I engage in my own creative pursuit of photography, the more I am able to develop the art of noticing. I notice more things happening around me. I notice how I choose what to include in the photo (and conversely, what I choose to leave out). I notice how people interact with other people and the world. I notice what story I am trying to tell with the photo. I notice more about myself.

When you are tasked with composing a picture, you start to notice the world around you. What would make a good photo and why? What should I include and what should I leave out?

These require you to develop the art of noticing and then turning what you have noticed into something else: for me, it’s a photo. The more I develop this skills to more I am able to be a better leader and manager.

The Art of Noticing at Work

All of these skills are the art of noticing and they are directly transferable to our work. Studying how your work is constructed, who does what, who is helpful and who isn’t, where work comes from and where work goes to, are all valuable pieces of information. The more you notice “how” your business operates, the better placed you are to make sense of it – and ultimately develop the ability to make changes within this system of work. You will have knowledge of the work and therefore your ideas about how to improve it will make sense: they will be grounded in evidence.

The more you understand how people interact and work together, the better placed you will be to put the right people, in the right place, with the right behaviours. The more you understand your work system, the better your stories about it will be.

  • Noticing what is happening and studying the world around you.
  • Choosing what to exclude.
  • Drawing a frame around what is useful, helpful, meaningful, important.
  • And telling stories.

There’s a very real reality that I have pushed this analogy too far – check out the video for a photo tour of Winchester.