Making my way around the pond at dawn, this morning is a bit different from most. The pond is mirror smooth; the sky completely clear. Dawn turns into brilliant sunrise just before I pass a place where my shadow falls on a low bank to my West. I suddenly notice that I have not one shadow, but two. One is familiar, the kind you always see on a sunny day. But the second is strange — it's faint, and higher than the first.
Eventually I realize that the sun casts the first shadow. The sun's reflection in the pond's mirror casts the second one. Such a simple thing, but I've never noticed it before.
I wonder: what else in Life have I never noticed? What goes unnoticed can become seriously important at the least convenient times. Here are four questions that might make the unnoticed more noticeable.
- What is here that I don't notice?
- In the rush to get from wherever we are to where we're supposed to be next, noticing what's here right now often escapes us. We focus more on where we're headed than where we are.
- Take in your surroundings with all your senses. What's here right now?
- What do I think is here that isn't really here?
- Expectations can distort observations. We see things that aren't there. For example, it took me six months to notice that the postal service had removed a corner mailbox in my neighborhood.
- What assumptions are you making about your corner of the world? Have you tested them lately?
- What isn't here, whose absence I don't notice?
- When we When we focus only on what's here,
we can fail to notice what isn't herefocus only on what's here, we can fail to notice what isn't here. For example, in a regular meeting where people engage in annoying sidebar conversation, the absence of sidebars might indicate something important.
- Noticing the absence of something requires imagining what can be, or remembering what has been, in spite of what is. Noticing what can be, but has never been, can lead to astounding innovations.
- What do I notice mistakenly in place of something that is actually here?
- Mistakes, misinterpretations, biases, and wishes can lead to noticing falsely one thing that isn't here in place of something else that actually is. When we experience fear and suspicion as a result of prejudice or superstition, we mistakenly notice what is not, instead of what is.
- Haste can cause errors like these. Bigotry can too. How many other sources can you find?
How many simple things don't we notice? Noticing my second shadow took a special situation. But if you think about it, almost every situation is special in some way. I'm beginning to believe that in every situation, there is much that I never noticed before. Top Next Issue
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More articles on Critical Thinking at Work:
- The Fine Art of Quibbling
- We usually think of quibbling as an innocent swan dive into unnecessary detail, like calculating shares
of a lunch check to the nearest cent. In debate about substantive issues, a detour into quibbling can
be far more threatening — it can indicate much deeper problems.
- Difficult Decisions
- Some decisions are difficult because they trigger us emotionally. They involve conflicts of interest,
yielding to undesirable realities, or possibly pain and suffering for the deciders or for others. How
can we make these emotionally difficult decisions with greater clarity and better outcomes?
- Making Meaning
- When we see or hear the goings-on around us, we interpret them to make meaning and significance. Some
interpretations are thoughtful, but most are almost instantaneous. Since the instantaneous ones are
sometimes goofy or dangerous, here's a look at how we make interpretations.
- The Halo Effect
- The Halo Effect is a cognitive bias that causes our evaluation of people, concepts, or objects to be
influenced by our perceptions of one attribute of those people, concepts, or objects. It can lead us
to make significant errors of judgment.
- Wacky Words of Wisdom: II
- Words of wisdom are so often helpful that many of them have solidified into easily remembered capsules.
And that's where the trouble begins. We remember them too easily and we apply them too liberally. Here's
Part II of a collection of often-misapplied words of wisdom.
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- And on July 15: Disjoint Concept Vocabularies
- In disputes or in problem solving sessions, when we can't seem to come to agreement, we often attribute the difficulty to miscommunication, histories of disagreements, hidden agendas, or "personality clashes." Sometimes the cause is much simpler. Sometimes the concept vocabularies of the parties don't overlap. Available here and by RSS on July 15.
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- Bullet Points: Mastery or Madness?
Decision-makers in modern organizations commonly demand briefings in the form of bullet points or a series of series of bullet points. But this form of presentation has limited value for complex decisions. We need something more. We actually need to think. Briefers who combine the bullet-point format with a variety of persuasion techniques can mislead decision-makers, guiding them into making poor decisions. Read more about this program.