I devised this Orange Observations exercise in my efforts to inspire my students to be observant. It’s a fun exercise for science, art and writing classes. I’d place a box of organic oranges on my desk and ask each student to come and take one. Then I asked them to take out a pencil or pen and two pieces of paper. On one paper, I’d have them write a description of their orange. On the other paper, I’d have them make a sketch of their orange. When done, I’d have them return their orange to the box. Then I’d mix the oranges in the box. Next, I’d asked them to exchange the description with one student and their sketch with another. Then, I’d ask them to come up and select the exact oranges depicted in the two papers they had received. They would typically look at me quite dumbfounded.
I’d then offer “let’s do this again”. Low and behold they were able to see, describe and capture in sketch unique things in their particular orange. They were able to capture details they had overlooked before. It wasn’t hard to do this enough to later be able to distinguish that orange from others. Learning to dig deeper, look closer allows us to capture what is unique. This allows us to more deeply consider and relay our experiences and the impact something or someone has on us.
Orange Observations in an Interview
In an interview, you could ask the candidate to give you the orange when they’re done. You can then mix it up with other oranges; ask them to use their own notes or sketch to find their orange. Or, even more fun can be to interview multiple candidates at once. I’ve had them ask each other interview questions as well. You can learn a lot about a candidate when then end up in an interview situation they weren’t expecting. The amazing candidate can pick out the other’s orange from the bunch without seeing their sketch or notes. It is a rare find to meet someone that can recall distinctive markings in another’s orange in this situation.
As a variant, you could have them choose a fruit from two boxes. One box with tangerines and one with clementines. Have them write a description of what they taste. and then have someone else see if they can determine if that description better fits a fruit from the box of clementines or the box of tangerine. Next, try that with smell instead of taste. With this you could open day one of training sommeliers 😉
Spin-up or Group Intro
This can also be a great way to spin-up a group of new-hires with fun activity. Another one is the Broken Squares Exercise.
The Orange Lesson Applied to Humans
As leaders or peers to other humans, if we overlook the subtle differences in each human, we miss opportunities to have more meaningful and deeper relationships and engagements. Likewise, if we don’t recognize the difference is our customers, we may end up providing least common denominator solutions, products and content. Avoiding the latter was the whole premise behind BroadVision’s 1-to-1 products as originally described in the book One-to-One Marketing and now implemented widely across multiple experiences.
- Tangerines vs Mandarins vs Clementines: What’s the Difference?
- Gotta love google. After writing this, I found a much more in depth exercise leveraging oranges in much the same manner: Cosmic Oranges: Observation and Inquiry Through Descriptive Writing and Art
- Data: Trust but Clarify