In the summer of 2005, I landed the internship of my dreams at MTV India. Those three months helped me discover something much more than my love for the content space, as it was during this time that I discovered the art of observation.
One early morning after sitting in on a show edit all night, I decided to walk back to my college hostel instead of taking the train. The seven-odd kilometer walk back from the MTV office in Parel all the way to St. Xavier’s College started my beautiful journey of discovering a side of Bombay I’d never experienced.
What lay at the core of this discovery was the newfound awareness of the world around. The art of observation, to me, is the ability to become invisible, and to take in the many worlds that pass us by.
I would try to walk back to the hostel using a new route every time – even if it meant taking a small detour down a random lane. Each time I observed different people, different architecture, and shops on the street, and even realised how the street dogs were protecting their homeless owners in the thick of the night.
The chaos of the Bombay streets brought to my mind a calm that let me observe and create stories. It opened up my awareness of the world I’d otherwise just ignore, and brought to my consciousness so many different urban stories, which inspired me in different ways.
I have to confess that these days I struggle with making time for observation. It’s not like the opportunity doesn’t present itself. Recently on a cab ride to the Bangalore airport, I found myself glued to my phone for an hour switching between work emails and social media apps. I had to stop myself, put away the phone, and make a conscious effort to observe – and it wasn’t disappointing.
As marketers, the art of observation helps in ways that consumer studies and excel sheet data just can’t. What consumers are buying, how these interactions are taking place, and insights that make you sit up and think. It could lead to the next product innovation, to the next amazing campaign, to new business ideas, or maybe can just help you to relax.
Try going for a walk today, maybe in your own neighbourhood, but this time put that phone in your pocket, and flip that observation switch on. I’m sure you’ll come back with a story or two of your own.