Monday, July 28, 2014

How to See the Obvious?

We often ignore the obvious. We don't want to. But we just can't see it.
If you don't know of this video, watch the Monkey Business Illusion:

This video and the study by Dan Simons, the co-author of the famous book The Invisible Gorilla offers very interesting insights. 

So, how can we see the obvious that's not always obvious?

Here are a few strategies that have helped me look beyond what I can see:

1) Use specific techniques to analyze the current situation. When you look at a situation from different perspectives, new information comes to the surface. Use techniques such as Five Why's, Fish Bone Analysis, Six Hats, Lateral Thinking etc. and work with different perspectives.

2) Step back and review the situation. As you review, specifically look for what's not obvious. Be critical. You may need to do this several times. 

3) Discuss the situation with others. Get others to ask you questions about what you know about the situation. As you answer, more information will come to the surface but more importantly, gaps in your existing knowledge will be exposed. 

4) Share your work and thought process with others. Sharing your work with others is a natural and easy way to identify the strengths and weakness in your solution/assessment of the situation. As you share the facts that are available to you, more information that you previously did not have access to might be revealed. Others may share their views and approaches and that might be helpful as well.

5) Visualize the problem and the solution. Visualize it in your mind but more importantly on paper - use drawings or mind mapping tools. As you visualize, certain things that were not obvious previously may jump at you. 

6) Make notes. I have found that reflecting and summarizing key points/aspects about a situation makes me more mindful of what's available and what's required. This is similar to visualizing but is perhaps quicker and simpler.

7) Step away from the situation for some time. This is different from stepping back. Stepping away means to not think about it anymore, atleast consciously. I try and sleep over things. I can't say that I always wake up with a eureka moment but sometimes, this helps in making other layers of information more accessible.

The next three strategies are more useful from a long-term perspective:

8) Try to familiarize yourself with the unfamiliar. One of the reasons why we are unable to 'see' what's in front of us is our ability to string together what's familiar and ignore or not see the unfamiliar. Therefore, to observe more carefully, I try and expose myself to the unfamiliar. This includes diverse interests and activities that I wouldn't pursue normally. Or it may be as simple as exposing myself to news or books that discuss topics that are unfamiliar. The idea is to let my brain wrap itself around differences, anomalies and unusual things.

9) Meet and interact with people that are very different from you. Meeting like-minded people might be great for professional networking but you will reap more benefits regarding self-awareness and mindfulness by meeting people who don't think like you. When you interact with people who are fundamentally different from you, there is scope to gain new perspectives and to start 'thinking' differently. 

10) Try and eliminate filters. We all have filters. These are based on our nature and our nurturing process including our family and friends who impact the way we see, hear and observe things. The more conscious we become of these filters, the easier it is to try and remove them as we analyze a situation. One way to do this is to say, 'If another person, say X (who is different from you), would see this situation, what would be her analysis?' These filters could be underlying myths or misconceptions or judgments that we make about things and people and we may do it unconsciously, all the time. This is a tough one because sometimes we don't realize that we have a filter.

Do you have any strategies to see the obvious? 

"There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact. Arthur Conan Doyle