Boise State on Business by Nancy Napier: Remember to look for the things you don’t readily see

NANCY NAPIER, executive director of Boise State’s Centre for Creativity and Innovation.July 30, 2013 

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Nancy Napier

When I had a Brownie camera in the dark ages, or the Rollei that I took to college, or the early stage point-and- shoots, life was easy. I lifted the camera to my eye, found something interesting and pushed a button. No fuss, no muss, no bother. But, of course, I didn’t really get much that was interesting — just those standard “I was there” pictures, nothing worth showing to anyone but the most long-suffering family members.

In recent years, of course, camera technology and “sharing technology” has exploded. Everyone’s becoming a photographer.

You can take a shot, blow it up, crop it down, add highlights, change the color, take out flaws and make tweaks that turn your photo into something you didn’t know you had. I’m struggling with that, because it makes me wonder if what we see is real anymore. (Then I remind myself that paintings and early photos were also not always “real,” so what’s the big deal?).

In the interest in joining the new world of photo technology, I’ve begun playing with some of those super power features. And one of the best parts is that I’m now finding things in a photo that I didn’t know I’d seen or captured.

I’ve begun to take photos around my house of “artifacts” of my sons’ former presence. They are grown, building their own lives, but, of course, they are still very present. A stack of favorite yearbooks that they made in elementary school lies by the fireplace. The other morning, I squirmed down on the floor to get a side angle shot of the stack. Nice, but nothing remarkable. When I put the photo onto a bigger screen though, I found a surprise.

Tucked just on the edge of one of the books is a dead spider, legs tucked underneath his body, like he’d stopped to take a nap and just never stretched again. (Note: spiders do not bother me like they do some people; cockroaches, however, have no redeeming qualities that I can see, but I’m sure they have advocates somewhere.)

That spider made the picture more interesting, for me at least, because I realized how long those books have probably been sitting by the fireplace, untouched and unnoticed. It unleashed a lot of memories in addition to questions about how many other things I think I see but don’t.

The ability to truly see what’s around us is hard. I think of organizations that believe the competition is from one area and find that it’s from a completely different one (think: Kodak). I wonder about organizational leaders who think they know what’s happening in their firms and may miss a lot if people just below them manage upward so well that the leaders don’t “see” what’s really going on.

How often do we go about our lives and not really notice? What are we losing by not noticing?

If we were to “see” more within and outside organizations, we might discover areas of tension or problems, even before they emerge. And if we were to “see” more, we might anticipate ways to improve, rather than wait for a stress point to show what needs to improve.

Now, go take a photo and see what shows up that you never saw.


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