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The 800 Pound Gorilla in the Room

The 800 Pound Gorilla in the Room

14 Comments

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In defense of all of the managers and leaders out there who are “dancing as fast as they can”, I would also like to suggest, that in these change challenged times, there may be another reason we just don’t see that gorilla. Often times in business we become so preoccupied with the hundreds of details and ongoing crisis of the moment, that we no longer see the forest for the trees, and if so, have probably lost sight of the big picture and how we support the strategic plan.

Consider this, our minds are complex instruments that at times play tricks on us. Have you ever been so focused upon one thing only to look up afterward to find your environment changed unbeknown to you?

If there are any Doubting Thomas’ out there who don’t believe that this is possible, check out the surprising findings of an experiment, that was conducted at Harvard University’s Psychology Department on selective attention. This experiment demonstrates that people were so preoccupied with their specific assignment given to them in the experiment, that they didn’t see a man dressed up as a gorilla walking through the room.

When we ran the experiment and our students went out and tested people on the Harvard campus, we found that about half of the people did not at all notice the gorilla and, in fact, were very surprised they hadn’t noticed the gorilla. There were actually two findings from this experiment. One, you can miss very salient things, like a gorilla walking right in front of you, and two, that you’re shocked that you could miss it. Most people seem to have the intuitive idea that they’re going to see this kind of thing and they’re really surprised when they find out that they don’t. Christopher Chabris, Harvard University, Psychology Department, discussing an experiment demonstrating selective attention.


14 Comments

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  6. July 15, 2016 at 11:18 am

    But I sometimes find myself doing exactly that with regard to poverty, homelessness, war, Christian patriarchy, white privilege and climate change, so I can t be sure I wouldn t do the same thing if faced with a literal elephant in a literal room.

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