chapter  9
13 Pages

What you see is what you get

Observation, as opposed to inspection, as a means of organizational change
WithSarah Sutton

A powerful truth is expressed in the old adage, seeing is believing. This chapter begins by considering perception, and “the evidence of our eyes”, which proves to be rather less straightforward and unequivocal than it sounds. There follows from the briefest study of perception an apprehension of the mediating filter of the sensory/mind/brain system and therefore the intersubjectively formative nature of observation. In the experience both of seeing and of being seen, we learn how/who to be.

As observation is formative, it is potentially transformative, for the individual, and also for the organization. To illustrate this, I look at what can be learned from the experience of observing the board of a hospital trust. The work seems to suggest that if we are to learn new things, we need an observational experience from a perspective outside the frame in which we operate. There is a caveat; the observer perspective needs to include emotional undercurrents as potential information. It seems that if we experience an external perspective as unfeeling, as an inspection, we will concentrate on the look of things, which acts to preserve the status quo, and precludes curiosity, learning and development.