The Change Blindness Phenomenon and How to Stop it From Ruining Your Plan

I came across a video recently that made me think about life and how we get from point A to point B.  The video was about Change Blindness.  Change blindness is the phenomenon that occurs when a person viewing a visual scene apparently fails to detect large changes in the scene.

Experiments have been done to see if people would notice subtle differences in two identical pictures.  Researchers would show the subject a picture, then the exact same picture would then flash but with a change to a significant item in the picture.  Many people have a problem finding the changes.  It’s one thing to not notice an item that has changed in a picture, but it is a completely different thing to have that change happen in real life.

Watch this Change Blindness Video


 

Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are.- Bertolt Bretch

The Art of Execution

What I learned from coming across this change blindness video was the importance of executing a plan.  I know it may seem like a funny thing to learn from a change blindness experiment; but to me it makes sense.  If we are not aware of the changes in the things that are around us, the entire picture of our goals changes.

One of the pictures that I found online about change blindness was a picture of a military airplane with soldiers boarding it.  The alternate picture was exactly the same but without the jet engine.  It was a subtle change that anyone can miss but in reality, if that engine was missing that airplane would never get off of the ground.

This is why I thought about the idea of execution.  In order for our plans to be successful, we plan our path and create a “picture” of what we need to do.  It may be a career plan that has us running the company within 15 years.  That plan may include taking extra courses in business or management in order to understand our business better.  Or maybe it’s a health routine that requires you to take in a certain amount of calories per day as well as keeping an exercise program.  Either way, there will be certain things that need to be executed in order to reach your goal.

Lately, I have been focusing on the execution of my daily plans.  There are two reasons why I have made execution of a plan the focus of my recent activities.

            1.       Execution of a personal or professional plan is a sign that things are running smoothly.  It is also a sign that all of the people and systems in place are disciplined.

            2.       If a plan is executed the way it is supposed to, and things do not turn out the way you intended, it will be easy to fix the problem because you can change the plan instead of the system or people.

Noticing Change and Preventing Disaster

Those subtle changes that most of us miss because of change blindness can happen in our plan to succeed.  During the 2nd week of my 3 a.m. experiment, I came across a problem.  One of the days was dramatically less productive than the earlier days.  I realized that the reason I was less productive was because I didn’t follow the schedule that I had been following the previous week. The schedule was similar but with a few slight changes.  Those changes were enough to throw my whole day off. 

Here are some ways that I have learned to notice when things are beginning to change in my plan.

Keeps tabs-I am an awful micromanager.  Whether it is with my assistants or the members of the boards, or committees that I head, micromanaging is not fun for me.  I like to have capable, competent people that can execute a plan without me having to keep an eye on what they are doing.

However, with my personal goals, I have to micromanage myself.   I like to remind myself of the Peter Drucker quote “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”.  I am learning to monitor my activities daily.  With my exercise routine and other personal goals, I have a check list that I can refer to whenever I realize that am not getting the results that I want.

Notice important changes-If you got a chance to view the airplane demo, I thought that it was amazing that the most important thing on the plan was the thing that was missing.  However, 80% of the people who viewed that test, didn’t notice the engine was not there.  I think we do that in our daily lives.  We seem to somehow miss the most important things that will make our goals a reality.

Don’t Forget the Details-I once heard a retail marketing businessman say that the successful retail business is all about the little things.  “Retail is detail” is what he repeated over and over.  Although it is important to look at the “big things” in our plan, it is also important to notice the minor details.

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  • Quintin

    we gotta manage the details of our plans or things will change and we wont notice the difference.  In fact we might be missing something that is very key?