Observe and Absorb

In management consulting, unlike photography, quantity can’t replace quality.

Old CameraOn a sunny Saturday morning, I sat at the neighborhood market café, entertained by people watching. At the next table, a young guy with a funny hat and reddish beard was working on his Mac Book, feverishly editing some artistic picture. On his table he had an old, boxy Canon camera – probably a 1970′s vintage. Our market café is small, the tables tiny and bunched together, and the customers super friendly. How could I not start a conversation?

“Do you take film pictures with this camera?” I asked.

“Ah yes, sometimes,” he said, happy to interact.

“And you transfer the photos to digital format and then work on them on your computer?”

“Ah yes, sometimes.”

“Why bother – why not get a digital camera?”

“Oh, I have a digital camera too. But there is something about the film. It forces you to think about your shots.”

“In what way?” I asked.

He picked up the boxy camera. “With this camera I have to think about each shot — the shutter speed, f-stop, light, and composition.”

I pulled out my phone and showed him some shots of flowers I had taken in the park. “I don’t bother with any of that; I take many pictures. Some will come out well.”

“Some of them are nice,” he said watching me flip through the different shots. “But you don’t delete the bad ones, and you are not really connected with the pictures that you took. I’ve got to admit, I do that too. But if I want to consider myself a photographer, film is important.”

I said nothing. But he knew I was not convinced.

“For example, in my first shoot as a photographer, I decided to go with film. I shot and I shot, and I was confident that some of the pictures would come out well. And indeed, I got good pictures, but developing all that film cost me thousands. That forced me to slow down, to think before I shoot. And now, even with digital pictures, I pay attention to the details. I observe, absorb, and only then do I click.”

“Where is your digital camera?”

“Oh, I am not shooting today. I bring this camera around to remind me to observe and absorb.”

He had a point, I admitted to myself. “Interesting,” I said. “I’ll take this advice and slow down next time I shoot pictures (except when I shoot fast moving objects like my granddaughter.) I’ll observe and absorb.”

“And what do you do?” he asked.

“I am in management consulting, we help organizations plan well and make better decisions.”

“So, you should know what I mean. I’m sure you also observe and absorb your client’s situation. And, in your case, it’s probably even more important; unlike photos, quantity certainly can’t drive up quality.”

Another good point. I kept watching him edit with such passion. If he wasn’t so into his art, I would have tried to hire him!

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