Grab a pen and piece of paper or pull up your note app. Ready?

Okay, take a look at the pictures below. Write down five things you see happening in each (ten total).

Picture #1:


Picture #2

Got it?

So, this is a self-grading quiz with a maximum score of 10 and a minimum score of -10. Get out your red pen and look back over the ten things you wrote down.

Here’s the scoring criteria:

  • Is what you wrote down an observation or an interpretation?
    Give yourself 1 point for every observation and subtract 1 point for each interpretation. An observation is something gleaned by your senses; it’s objective, such as “there is a pile of brown & black shoes.” An interpretation attaches meaning or intent; it’s subjective, such as “the men are going through the pile of shoes to find a matching pair.”

In today’s work environment, we are each expected to assess, analyze and solve problems, while also having an opinion. Rarely are we directly asked to simply recount what we take in with our senses, or state the “obvious”. But in design thinking, starting with observations is critical. To truly understand our user, we need to see them as they are, which begins with just absorbing, not interpreting. In the sense-making process, we move from observations to interpretations over time, always using that raw data as our cornerstone. The patterns and insights that come as we bring in our interpretation should never be where we launch from, as tempting and commonplace as that might be.

The grading system:

  • 5-10: You are an observational genius. Post this score on your LinkedIn profile immediately.
  • 0-5: You work in the shoe industry and the second photo is what you encounter every day; so it threw off your perfect score. We understand.
  • <0: Your analytical brain is amazing, but let’s nurture that inner design thinker by practicing a bit. Over the next 24 hours, note on Facebook one objective observation of your environment every 20 minutes. Your friends will love it.

In true video game fashion, please comment below with your initials and your score (okay, your name too). Highest score gets a free copy of our new Designing for Growth Field Book!

Message me: @natalie_s_foley

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