Right Before Your Eyes
On a bright, beautiful morning, just after picking up a cup of steaming hot coffee, we feel alerted, completely vigilant and ready to take on the world. We know that no detail is going to miss our hawk-eye. We feel competent to review progress, pick out problem areas and take the bull by its horns.
But wait, don’t be so sure!
We are not as perceptive as we think we are. We have blind spots even at our most alert moments.
A famous experiment where college students were targeted by a researcher who asked for directions got some telling results. So, here was a student standing on the road when the researcher approached him to ask for directions to some place he had head to. The student started talking to him, figuring how he could be of help.
Halfway through the directions, workmen holding a wooden door passed between the two. In this short period, a volunteer switched places with the individual who was asking for the directions!
The astounding finding was that 50% of the participants didn’t even notice that the person asking for directions had completely changed.
Are our perceptions towards change not that sharp and accurate as we think they are?
The experiment demonstrated a phenomenon called “change blindness”.
It is quite normal and in fact, common for us not to see what is happening right in front of our eyes.
The reasons for this are chiefly around how the brain apportions slices of ‘attentiveness’ to the different things we are focusing on at any given point of time. In the experiment, the student who did not notice the ‘swap’ could have been too caught in understanding the query.
What are the implications for the workplace?
To begin with, one needs to be conscious of this cognitive process. Awareness will bring the humility to acknowledge that possibly, some things are falling on our blind spot. Once we know that we could be missing some factors around us, we are likely to look for ways to compensate for that. For instance, take more feedback from the team, listen more and assign different perceptive responsibilities to each team member.
Someone said, ‘No one is as good as all of us are’. This small experiment in perception shows us that we have our limitations and workplace success is possible only by working in tandem.