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The Power of Noticing

What the Best Leaders See

By Max H. Bazerman
19-minute read
Audio available
The Power of Noticing: What the Best Leaders See 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.

  • Managers interested in becoming better leaders for their employees
  • Anyone curious about the skills needed to lead effectively
  • Anyone who feels they often miss the important details at work and at home

Max Bazerman is a professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. He is the author of several acclaimed books on decision making and negotiation, including Negotiation Genius and Blind Spots.

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The Power of Noticing

What the Best Leaders See

By Max H. Bazerman
  • Read in 19 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 12 key ideas
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The Power of Noticing: What the Best Leaders See by Max H. Bazerman
Synopsis

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 12

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 to the 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.

In the 1970s, psychologist Ulric Neisser 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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