04 August 2010 ~ 1 Comment

How to develop your observation skills for effective community management

exercise how to observe surroundings social media community managerFollowing the article Why observing your community is an important part of managing it successfully, I thought some of you would find it useful if I went into a bit more depth about how you can be more observant in daily life and when managing your online community or social media outpost. So here are some little activities and techniques to get you on the path of seeing between the cracks.

As we get older, we naturally develop protection mechanisms to filter out what we perceive as “noise”, to allow us to get from one point to another with minimal interference. Unfortunately, this means we gradually lose our ability to notice the smaller details around us. To maintain a creative mindset, you need to force your brain to register what you habitually block out. Like any mental exercise, it’s hard at first but with a bit of practise you’ll be able to harness your intellectual peripheral vision on demand.

To retrain your brain, try the following:

Listening: Take some time out each day to just sit still and do nothing. Don’t make any noise, don’t move, and don’t watch TV or listen to music. Certainly don’t work. Just sit still and listen to what is going on around you. Try and notice all the little sounds you take for granted and become part of your aural fabric. Don’t let them blend into the background, find them, listen intently, and define what they sound like.

Playing: Playing is very important as an adult; it’s easy to disconnect from performing seemingly meaningless activities as we get older, but they do have a benefit: they encourage creative thinking, as children don’t tend to see the world with the number of filters we do as an adult. Reconnect with your inner child by creating opportunities to behave like a child, whether by playing on a swing or treating yourself to “forbidden” food. In the midst of the activity, observe how you feel and how you see your surroundings, in this different mindset.

Watching: Same as above – take some time to sit down and just observe what’s going on around you. You could go sit under a tree in the park; no headphones, no book. Concentrate on the goings-on around you, look at what people are doing, wearing, compare the way they walk or cycle. A similar exercise is to look at your desk carefully. Notice the dust-balls, the chip on the corner, the fading in colour of the surface and so on.

Creating: Getting involved in any hobby that leads to creating something new will help develop your powers of observation. Whether it’s drawing or painting, gardening or growing your own vegetables, you will also benefit from increased understanding of how to assess a situation and identify the best tools and methods to react to it.

Moving: You won’t force your brain to observe what is around you by leaving it in a known environment. If you usually sit in a particular room in your house, try relocating to a different one during certain activities. Take a different route to work. Meet your friends in new venues, and try out pursuing interests you haven’t had time for before.

Listing: As you go through any of the examples above, make a mental record of the things you notice around you, where and how they are placed, and whether they are still the same the next time you see them. Another way to do this exercise is to pay attention to your surroundings the next time you go to a bar or restaurant. Try and remember where the exits were, what sort of top the bar person was wearing, how many glasses were on the table next to yours, and so on. Make mental notes as you go about your daily routine.

All of these exercises might sound forced and deliberate, but the irony is that you will be able to release yourself from your self-conditioning and increase your ability to observe what is around you, and in the online community you are tasked with managing.

Do you have any other tips for becoming more observant? Have you tried any of the ones listed above? How did it work out for you?

[photo by René Ehrhardt]

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