Inattentional blindness is the failure to notice a fully-visible, but unexpected object because attention was engaged on another task, event, or object.

You may not be familiar with the term Inattentional Blindness but perhaps you’ve heard the story when observers at a basketball game were asked to count the number of times one of the teams passed the basketball.  They were so intent on counting the passes that roughly 50% of the observers did not see a person in a gorilla suit come on the court.  (And they were in denial until showed proof in the video of the game!)

Can we become so focused on a task or behavior that we “miss” quite a bit of what’s happening around us? The answer seems to be yes.

Arien Mack and Irvin Rock coined the term “inattentional blindness” to describe the results of their studies regarding how perceptive one is for unexpected objects. And, unless we pay close attention, we can miss even the most obvious action or event.

So, are they saying we can be too focused? Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris, cognitive psychologists, support the concept that by focusing so hard on one thing, we can be oblivious to details if we limit what we’re looking for.

Another new term (at least to us!) by Max Bazerman is WYSINATI = What You See Is Not All There Is. He came up with this acronym and shares that we, as leaders, can learn to identify when we aren’t seeing the complete picture and have a need to seek additional  information and look for more.

He also shares that skilled leaders have a “noticing mindset”. They detect changes in behaviors, they get a sense if they are not hearing the whole story, and they have a true feel for what’s happening around them.

We consistently talk about awareness.  We need to be self-aware, we need to be aware of styles, behaviors, and the demeanor of others, and we need to be aware of our environment and make an effort to truly see and sense what’s happening.

Having focus is good, but like any attribute, when over-used can become a weakness and limit our vision.

Strive to perfect that “noticing mindset”!

We are aware of far less of our world than we think.—Daniel Simons