I am a lawyer and an art historian and I started a company called The Art of Perception. In a nutshell, I teach leaders in medicine, law enforcement, the intelligence community, and financial services to enhance their observation skills by learning to look at works of art. I am also the author of Visual Intelligence, which was published in May 2016.
Could you briefly explain to us the concept of ‘visual intelligence’?
Our brains can only process so much information at one time. Visual Intelligence is the concept of prioritizing the visual information you encounter and deciding what, if any of it, you need to do your job more effectively and live your life more fully.
Your book, Visual Intelligence, was released earlier this year – could you tell us a bit more about it?
The book is not only the written methodology of my Art of Perception class but is also filled with anecdotes and narratives from participants in the course. The book details how they use The Art of Perception in their everyday lives.
What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
I heard back from so many people who participated in the program that I thought that I really need to put some of this on paper for others to read.
How are visual intelligence and communication linked?
They are inextricably linked because if we don’t communicate what we observe, what good does it do us? Also, to be good collaborators, we need to be effective communicators.
You have trained professionals from many different industries, from medicine to the FBI. Did you find any similar issues across different organisations?
Those in medicine are a bit more reticent to speak candidly about what they see in art for fear of not sounded as informed as they think should be. There is no prerequisite of knowledge in my course. I find that people in the intelligence community are so good with details but often miss the big picture. We never master these skills and can always improve them. Nurses, I have found, are on the front lines and see so much at one time.
Did you have to change your approach to training depending on the organisation you were in?
No, the approach is always the same but the works of art change. I try to tailor each session to the particular audience I am working with for maximum relevance and applicability.
How can developing our visual intelligence help us in everyday life?
Increasing our awareness is always a positive thing. Whether we are thinking about personal safety or situational awareness or better communication with our partners and families, good visual intelligence and sharp communication skills are a strong foundation for everyday living.
What ONE piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to improve their visual intelligence?
LOOK UP. Don’t be tied to your screens more than the world around you.
And finally, is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
I tell my classes and my readers to look up. We are so reliant on our technology and we need to use it creatively but there is no substitution for human interaction and engaging with the world. To borrow a line from a colleague, I tell people to aspire to “be in the now.”
Amy's book Visual Intelligence is available to order now on Amazon. Or if you'd like to connect with Amy, you can find her on Twitter at @AmyHermanAOP.