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The Power of Noticing

What the Best Leaders See

By Max H. Bazerman
  • Read in 18 minutes
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  • Contains 11 key ideas
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The Power of Noticing by Max H. Bazerman

As we muddle through day to day, we often don’t see things that are right in front of us. Sometimes we’re not paying enough attention; sometimes we subconsciously “blind” ourselves to things. The Power of Noticing is about learning to notice, a skill that is crucial in making important decisions as well as in being a great leader. 

Key idea 1 of 11

Focusing too intently on one thing can make you blind to other details around you.

Horses in busy cities often wear blinders –  small shields positioned so that the horse can’t see right or left, only straight ahead. This way, the horse can ignore the traffic and people, focusing only on what’s in front of it on the road.

People too can wear virtual “blinders.” We fail to notice the simple things around us as we focus intently on just one thing. 

Psychologist Ulric Neisser in the 1970s illustrated this phenomenon in a video. A short clip, only nineteen seconds in length, shows people wearing either black or white shirts passing a basketball back and forth. As you watch the clip, you are supposed to count how many passes those wearing white shirts make. 

Most people are able to focus and count the passes accurately. If you ask a viewer if anything strange happened in the video, however, most viewers would say no.

But something strange does happen. As the players pass the ball, a woman dressed in black and holding an umbrella walks through the scene. Most viewers don't recall this as they are too focused on counting passes.

When we focus too much on one thing, like counting passes, we can become blind to other things that might be right in front of us. This is called inattentional blindness.

Yet it is possible to overcome inattentional blindness. We have to learn to notice.

The power of noticing means being able to see that woman with the umbrella. It means being able to focus on something without going blind to everything else. 

In the following blinks, you'll see how your ability to notice can prevent you from making careless mistakes and enable you to become a successful leader.

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