5 ways to use the Design Principle: Observe, Pause, and Interact
It may seem like stating the obvious, but taking time to observe closely the conditions within and without your business (or any other environment) is probably the most valuable activity you can carry out on any given day. How often do we create business plans, or set goals and objectives, only to file them away never to be seen again, while we get on with the busy day to day requirements of being in business, or life in general? We run the risk of being reactive, rather than proactive, responding to ‘urgent’ instead of ‘important’ tasks.
1. See the big picture:
By taking a step back and observing the overall system we can gain an idea of where a problem or issue may be originating, not just on the outcome that becomes obvious. We can also gain a better perspective of where to intervene in a system to create the most beneficial outcome, which may not be the same as our immediate reaction. For example, in times of economic contraction our first response may be to cut back, but research shows that companies that find opportunities to take bold action will come out ahead, in the longer term.
2. Review goals and objectives regularly:
Monthly or quarterly reviews help to keep you on track. In a digital world it may be a bit old-school, but print them out and keep them on a wall where you can see them daily. Whether it is sales targets, linked-in posts, or customer engagement outcomes, knowing what you are trying to achieve, and consciously progressing towards the goal, will get you there faster. If you file them away, to be reviewed in 3 months, chances are that you will be in the same place in 3 months time.
3. Examine the status quo:
Before rushing in with a response, take some time to observe what is happening now. What are the influencers driving the situation or behaviour? Make a list, do some rapid research and try to determine which are the most critical. It may not be what you first think! Perception and memory can be slippery! Keep a record of how may people come into a store, click on a post, or enquire about a particular good or service. If we’re having a bad day, it is easier to feel like everything else is going badly, but it may just be a run in with a grumpy customer, rather than a downturn in sales for the week or month.
4. What has changed:
What has changed since you last conducted a review, or to bring a new situation to your attention? It could be something external, like a change in interest rates, or it could be a new employee bringing renewed enthusiasm or organisation to a task. Change can be both positive and negative (sometimes simultaneously), so notice and celebrate the wins, alongside the challenges. “Notice what you notice” is a good reminder to keep a wide perspective of both the good and challenging aspects of doing business.
5. Test your ideas:
Finally we get to the ‘interact’ part of the principle. You may find a tool like scenario planning, a risk analysis or impact matrix useful. Sometimes a radical re-think is necessary, but if possible make small strategic changes, where they will be most effective, then sit back and observe again. What is the effect of the change? Is it what you expected, or has something unexpected happened? Sometimes there will be a cascading effect that you didn’t anticipate. The more possibilities and alternatives that you imagine before implementation, the less likely you are to be surprised. Once you have observed the change and its positive outcome, can you then scale or replicate the response across your business or organisation (if appropriate)?
I like to think about the observe, pause and interact principle as a breath cycle – on the in breath we take in information and assess the situation, we hold or pause for a moment (sometimes doing nothing is a good response), then on the out breath we take an action to address the situation. In the same way as breathing, this is a continuous iterative process. Observation is never finished, but taking time to consciously observe is as healthy for your business, as conscious breathing is for your body and mind!