kitchen peelerAny Dad out there will I am sure have been on the receiving end of this (often semi-sarcastic) refrain “are you Dad looking again?” when you have failed to find something you were looking for. Now we are not alone in suffering from this supposed affliction, my daughters have an even worse case of it than me! 🙂  The reality is, that whether at home searching in the kitchen drawer for the potato peeler (that says it all lol), in the market place looking for a new recruit or in your team looking for the greatest opportunity to improve, the implications of not seeing what we are looking for can be great.  As a result, recognising the issue and proactively finding ways of combatting the three common reasons could potentially make a big impact.

We have a preconceived idea of what we are looking for

This was brought sharply into focus earlier today when I popped to see my physio Heather; on the door was a door knocker, which I rapped whilst noticing the sign saying “please ring the bell”. Well I looked and I looked around the door frame for a bell with no luck. When Heather answered the door I asked her where the bell was?  She looked at me (in the same way my daughters look at me when I have been ‘Dad looking’) and pointed at a large brass ships bell hanging off the side of the door. Doh!!! 🙂 At least she didn’t laugh – too much – I was a customer after all.  Of course it doorwas a bell, but it wasn’t a door bell!!! At least in my narrow minded definition of the word.  We so often have preconceived ideas about what we are searching for, admittedly less of an issue with the potato peeler, but if I think about my search for help and support for my business, the solution has not been anything like what I was looking for.  We have to maintain an open mind to whatever we are searching for, being able to engage all the senses in helping us make the right choice, judgement or decisions.  I am sure that you have all seen the Invisible Gorilla experiment?  If not check it out.  An absolute case in point of looking but not seeing.

We are wilfully blind

I have just finished a book by Margaret Heffernan entitled ‘Wilful Blindness’ – in it she makes the case that we ignore the obvious at our peril. She refers to numerous political and business situations in which she makes a case for a number of reasons for this ‘Wilful Blindness’, three for me really stood out in the context of this blog.

  1. Just Following Orders – sometimes the orders are our own written rules of engagement and sometimes they are literally orders from on high; either way there are times when we focus on following the order rather than seeing what is blatantly obvious to others and clearly the more appropriate course of action or decision.
  2. Cult of culture – a way of doing things, seeing things and perceiving things becomes the way we do things around here. The more people involved, the more powerful the cultural gravity. I have supported teams in which, for example, people have no conscious recognition that they are losing hours of productive time by meetings starting late, waiting for one or two people to show up. Obvious when I pointed it out, but wilfully blind before that.
  3. Out of sight out of mind – we can mask our sight through geography, hierarchy or bureaucracy. If you cannot directly see it or the impact it has then it clearly does not exist. Again I have experience of teams in which the leader was completely disconnected from the reality of the challenges in which they were facing at the coal face. They were getting the job done, but at some personal cost to the team members and unfortunately that leader was only too happy to hide behind the hierarchical and geographical disconnection.

We are distracted by the ‘white noise’ of life

white-noise-onlineI have talked before in various blogs about how busy we are, the gravity associated with the ‘operational treadmill’ we are pounding and the huge amount of ‘information’ that is pushed at us. How often have you started looking for a file on your PC to complete an important task when an email pings in! Ninety minutes later you have finally responded to the email and the implications of the email, only to have no idea where you had got to and what you were looking for in the first place.  We start to spend time with our team to talk about the issues and challenges they are facing, they begin to open up, only for ‘the boss’ to call and we stupidly take the call and the moment is lost.  Or reading a daughter’s homework book, catching up with what has been going on, distracted by the buzzing Facebook or Twitter feed, we skim read and miss the vital bit of information about moving up a maths set.  We look but don’t see what would have made the difference.

I hope that you take the chance to reflect on these three reasons and see if they apply to any part of your lives, it is so important to be able to see what we need to when we need to in everything we do.