Being highly observant is one of those super power kind of skills, with many applications in personal and business worlds. I believe it can make us better humans—more attentive and responsive to the people in our lives. And at work, observation can help us find innovative solutions and unexpected insights for big business problems too.

Recently, I had the great honor of piloting a new workshop at the Day of Innovation conference hosted by Centric on the campus of Butler University. We covered some observation basics and practiced a few different frameworks and methods. As I compiled advice for becoming more observant, I realized it sounded a lot like mindfulness or meditation advice.

Outtakes from Centric #dayofinnovation

A post shared by Yes and Yonder (@yesandyonder) on

How to become more observant:

  • Set the intention to notice your surroundings.
  • Prioritize listening and watching, rather than acting, speaking, or solving.
  • Use scans to be more methodical. Scan the physical environment from left to right. Scan your senses one at a time.
  • Ask, “What else?” to look for the obvious and to dig deeper.  

Sounds kind of simple, right? Of course there are challenges and some more advanced methods, but the truth about observation is not that it’s rocket science, but that it takes discipline. And, practice can help too!

To help people from the workshop continue to develop their observation skills, I created a few activities people could try out on their own. Here’s one of them, if you want to try it out!


10 airplanes


Sheets of paper for making airplanes
10 Airplanes template
Writing utensils
Camera or other recording devices (optional)


  1. Ask a person to make an airplane and observe their technique.
  2. Take notes on their process. What steps do they take?
  3. Sketch or photograph their finished airplane.
  4. Repeat up to 9 more times!
  5. Compare notes from each and fill in the patterns and outliers you notice.

Here’s a 10 Airplanes PDF template with instructions and space for taking your notes!

If you give it a try, please let me know how it goes for you. I’m always curious to hear what you learn about paper airplanes, of course, but am especially interested in what you learn about observation!


Observation as a Super Power Workshop

Interested in learning more observation research methods? The Observation as a Super Power workshop is available as a 45-minute or a 2-hour workshop. Email me to book this workshop at your company or conference!

Book a Workshop