“They are stepping over the dead bodies,” I told him.
My friend and I met at a business conference last week, and he was giving me his reflections on the new organisation he had been hired into recently as a senior strategist. He spoke about patterns his colleagues no longer seemed to notice.
“You still have fresh eyes, ” I said. “You can see things that others who have worked there for some time no longer notice. It’s like they are stepping over the dead bodies.”
My friend seemed to find this helpful, because he had been confused as to why these otherwise-intelligent people didn’t seem to notice, and just tolerated arrangement that didn’t work very well.
Our brains are designed to notice the new and the unusual. If we see something day after day, pretty soon we filter it out. It becomes part of the wallpaper of our lives. It is a way we focus in a noisy environment. Neuroscientists claim that we are aware of as little as 40% of the external stimuli coming our way at any given moment.
This seeing with fresh eyes has the valuable benefit of noticing things. It is often the value visiting consultants bring. They see obvious problems and opportunities, not because of any smarter than their clients; they have fresh eyes. It is why a good coach will ask a very pertinent, unblocking question; not because they know more than their client. It’s just that the coach doesn’t have their client’s mental luggage.
Whenever I took a new hire, I would ask them to tell me if they saw anything amiss; anything puzzling or unnecessary, because they came with fresh eyes.
Are you stepping over the dead bodies? How would you know?
That’s the point.