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Help people see through a wider lens

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A recent experiment at Cornell University showed just how much power leaders have to determine what people notice … and what they miss.

Experiment participants watched a video of two teams playing basketball. They were told to count the number of passes between players on one team. Nearly all the participants were able to count the passes accurately, but only 21 percent of them noticed that a woman was walking among the players while holding an open umbrella.

When participants were not asked to count the passes, all of them noticed the woman.

Lesson: When you ask people to watch for something, they’re likely to miss everything else.

Part of your job as leader is to help people open their mental “lenses” wide enough to let in lots of ambiguous information, not only a limited range of it.

—Adapted from “Decisions Without Blinders,” Max H. Bazerman and Dolly Clough, Harvard Business Review.

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