Visual Intelligence: Do I Really See You?

Abundance Books


Key Point: “Sharpen your perception, change your life.” That’s the tag line for Amy Herman‘s book, “Visual Intelligence.” As noted in my last blog, and worth repeating, she works with leading law enforcement groups around the world (e.g. NSA, CIA, Special Forces, NYPD), the medical profession and with many front running companies. The unique aspect of Amy’s work is that she uses art to teach people how to increase their visual intelligence. She has a thriving business helping people enhance observation and perception skills as well as communicate inferences more effectively through carefully observing paintings and photography. Herman teaches us to refrain from using the terms “obviously” and “clearly” in narrative, lines of questioning, and description. Those are terms that can lead us astray. There is very little if anything that is “obvious” or “clear” to all. We only need the recent American presidential election to remind us of that lesson.

Amy’s smart approach shows people how to be precise, straightforward and use the simplest possible terms to describe both unfamiliar and repeated situations in accurate ways, minimizing preconceived judgment and unconscious bias. And she reminds us to remain alert to eye contact, facial expressions, and non-verbal communication too.

Leonardo da Vinci claimed all of his scientific and artistic accomplishments came from “saper vadere,” or “knowing how to see.” Herman wants us too see more too. When she shows paintings and photos to her students, those looking at the exact same visuals see so much more or less than others. Too often, we let our biases, unconscious or otherwise, filter and make inferences that are wrong at best and dangerous at worse. Herman encourages us to be as objective as possible, look at the entire picture corner to corner for full context. And while we must appreciate our personal experiences, we must NOT to let our emotions and assumptions blind us.

At the end of Herman’s presentation, she shows her students a picture they saw for the first time a few hours before, and the observation change is startling. People see so much more with increased accuracy and less faulty judgment. Herman then asks the following: “What changed? The picture, or you?”

Character Moves:

  1. Even if we genuinely embrace Ubuntu (see last blog), what do we really see? What biases or judgment is in the way? Apply Amy’s fact based framework as noted above.
  1. Always look at the entire picture “corner to corner” and not just the standout characters in the middle of the frame.
  1. Now connect this framework to the idea of showing up and really seeing others as per the Zulu greeting. We would SEE so much more.

Really seeing you in the Triangle,


One Millennial View: Millennials can be incredibly guilty of sharing news articles after only reading the headline, and that’s just an example that barely scratches the surface of our intolerance for time consuming detail. As much as we want all our information in 140 characters or less, Herman makes the strong point that sometimes it takes some in-depth analysis to draw a well founded perspective, and we can all use a “corner to corner” lesson if we’re being honest with ourselves.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis