OK, before I say anything else, please watch this video:
A colleague and friend, Cindy Franklin, sent this to me on Saturday. I watched it with my husband, and we both completely missed the important element (I’m trying to avoid spoilers here). In fact, we were so committed to our sense that the whole thing was somehow a trick, that we immediately rewound the tape to see whether the element was really there. We both thought, Wow – how could we have missed that?
What a great example of – exactly as the title of the video says – “selective attention.”
Often when I talk with executives, I notice that there are big, important pieces of the picture they’re simply not seeing. This little video helps me understand more clearly that we when we miss critical elements, it’s often because we’re over-focusing on what we’re already looking for…to the exclusion of the things we may not be expecting.
I was just talking to a client the other day who is a senior executive in a large company – almost 50,000 employees. Her boss is about to retire, and has already named his successor, a very smart man who has risen fairly rapidly through the ranks to his current position. She likes this guy, and thinks he’ll be a good CEO, but is astonished that, in her words “he’s just starting to recognize that it’s important for him to be a good people leader.” She’s very focused on leading her own people well, and sees that as an important element of her success. It seems to me that her boss-to-be has been focusing exclusively on what are to him the players-in-white-passing-the-ball parts of the business; he’s very financially and operationally focused, so it’s essential stuff – it’s just not all the essential stuff. I think himself-as-leader-of-people has been the invisible gorilla in his movie.
So, here’s a suggestion. When you’re thinking about an important situation, professional or personal, and you want to make sure you’re focusing on all the important elements, try this. First, unhook your brain from the assumptions and conclusions you’ve already made (i.e., “I’m doing everything I can,” “It’s all their fault,” “I just need this set of facts,” “I don’t need to think about…”). Question those assumptions and concclusions, and assume they might not be accurate. Then step back and ask yourself “What am I not seeing?”
I predict you’ll be surprised at all the metaphorical gorillas that wander by.