Leading Blog


The Power of Noticing

Harvard professor Max Bazerman believes in the power of noticing. Sometimes we get so focused on what is right in front of us that we miss the critical information that would help us to make better decisions.

The Power of Noticing guides us through what happens when our focus can prevent us from seeing the critical information we need to make better decisions. Focusing too narrowly on the information in front of us is common too us all. Where we would never do it in certain situations we can easily do it in others.

Loyalty creates “blinders to full awareness and action.” Personality cults end badly for this very reason. “When we have a vested self-interest in a situation, we have difficulty approaching that situation without bias, no matter how well-calibrated we believe our moral compass to be. We want to think the best of our kids and spouses, and we’re disinclined to speak against those with influence in our offices and our occupations.” And so we don’t speak up when we should or we miss the kind of information we need to make the best decision.

“Through our silence and complacency we accept and promote corruption.” When we don’t take the time to notice growing issues or simply chose to ignore them, corrupt systems develop around us.

Sometimes we don’t get the information we need or fail to see the obvious because of misdirection. Thinking logically helps us to avoid this kind of decision-making trap. “When you start to stray from logic, and another person is involved, whether she is a negotiator, marketer, or politician, it is time to put yourself in the shoes of the other party, understand her motives, and adapt accordingly.”

We are also unlikely to notice gradual changes. It is easy to miss or more likely to accept changes in ethical behavior until it’s too late because of this slippery slope effect. “Too often executives have engaged in unacceptable behavior not because they intend to defraud but simply to justify the mess that they got into.”

There are more obvious things we don’t notice or rather do notice but our human nature gets the best of us. Things that are “too good to be true” require investigation. Bazerman explains why penny auctions are nothing but gambling. The house always wins. “Thinking one step ahead allows you to identify when to be trusting and when to be cynical.”

It is wise to think through the indirect effects of your organizational policies and goals. What is the possible downside? What might it cause people to do unintentionally?

“Focusing is important, but sometimes noticing is better—at least when you are making critical decisions.”
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Of Related Interest:
  First Class Noticer

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:53 PM
| Comments (0) | This post is about Problem Solving



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