Looking Harder

What we do see depends mainly on what we look for.
… In the same field the farmer will notice the crop, the geologists the fossils, botanists the flowers, artists the colouring, sportmen the cover for the game. Though we may all look at the same things, it does not all follow that we should see them.

~Sir John Lubbock, The Beauties of Nature and the Wonders of the World We Live In (1892)

It’s well known that we see what we’re looking for. (This idea always makes me think of the “selective attention test” and the invisible gorilla.

But it is also true that when we believe something is there to be found, we look harder.

Have you ever tried an Escape Room? When you know the clues and keys are somewhere in the room, you turn the place upside down looking for them. (Time pressure also helps). But if you have reason to doubt that all the combination locks are in fact in working order, perhaps you’d be less keen to look hard for the numbers you need?

Maybe you’ve also noticed this in your family. Is there someone who has the ability to find lost things? In our home, it’s the mom. (That’s me). When my daughter had a baby last year, she wondered aloud if somehow that “mom skill” of finding things had been magically added to her repertoire. Recently, my son (note: not a mom) was looking for something in the back of my car. Not a large space. He declared it not there. I went to look — knowing it was there — and found it. Yes, it took some rearranging of seats beyond the cursory glance he’d given my trunk, but I was willing to do that extra digging because I was confident the item was there to be found.

What are we not seeing in our work or in ourselves because we are not confident it is there to be found?

As a leader, could you cast a vision of possibility that would allow your team to believe something unseen might be there to be found, thereby motivating them to work harder to uncover it?

Sometimes wiser decisions require an ability to turn imagination into belief that then translates into action and creation. We need people to believe in us before we believe in ourselves, because when we believe something valuable is actually there to be found, we will turn our lives upside down looking for it.

If you would like to know more about the collaborative planning work I do, I’m delighted to be able to share this new showreel, produced with Burdock Creative in Guelph.

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