Gorillas and Cows

At last night’s meetup of the Software Testing Club Atlanta, John Stevenson hosted a workshop on Creative and Critical Thinking. John had a lot of good information for us, had us play games, and fostered a lot of good discussion.

One of the discussions circled around the topics of information overload and Alan Page‘s favorite gorilla, Daniel Simons’ The Monkey Business Illusion. The two are almost opposite sides of the coin – how to deal with lots of information, and how to deal with seemingly-unrelated (and thus perhaps invisible) facts/events when I’m concentrating on something.

If you’ve never seen the gorilla video, watch it now.
If you have seen it, watch this version all the way through to the end.

I raised two points last night, and I’m interested in your thoughts on them.

1. “Information Overload,” though these days often attributed to the overwhelming quanity of “stuff” available on the Internet, is not really a new problem. When I was a young boy — long before the web and the overwhelming popularity of cat videos — I would walk into the public library and gaze up at row upon row of bookshelves. There was no way I could ever read them all. I could either become “overloaded” by the volume of information available, or I could choose a single book at a time. Digital information is no different, we “simply” need to discern what’s important to us.

2. While the gorilla and the illusion of attention are interesting, there are probably times when we just don’t care. If ours is a mission-critical job, and our paycheck — or someone’s life — depend on counting basketball passes then noticing the oddity in the scene is actually a bad thing. a cow For a concrete example, consider the cows the field. To the kids in the back seat they’re something interesting to notice, perhaps an unusual sight and fun to count. Mom who’s driving the car on a crowded highway should probably not notice the cows unless one is making a mad dash toward the road.

So what do you think? Join in the conversation in comments here or over on twitter.

Experience, Learning, or Tips?

Two items, next to each other in my newsreader today, struck me as somehow connected.

Part of a Vanity fair article pointed to by Ernie the Attorney

“You spent seven years learning every little nuance of the fishing trade before you were granted the gift of learning from this great captain?” I ask.


“And even then you had to sit at the feet of this great master for many months before you felt as if you knew what you were doing?”


… right next this comment from Tim Sanders

At least once a week, someone asks me for some public speaking tips.


Have a Refreshing Weekend

It’s time to take a full three day weekend. I know my buddy Allen is, his email’s already responding that he won’t be back until Tuesday and I know he means it – and he’s out of cell range, high in the mountains for the weekend. I don’t have plans quite so grand, but I’m shutting a lot down.

If you feel that you absolutely have to get some work done, do your co-workers and employees a big favor and don’t send them email during the weekend. outlook-offline.jpgIf you’re using Microsoft Outlook (and, I suspect, other email clients as well), that’s easy. Even if you do some work and get some messages put together, start by setting Outlook in it’s “offline” mode. That’ll keep any email you write sitting nicely in the “outbox” folder and won’t send it. Then, on Tuesday morning, set Outlook back “online” and everyone can get cranked back up again… nicely refreshed from their break.

But even better, just write a quick note to yourself and stick it next to your computer, as a reminder of what to do after your weekend.

As for me, I’m shutting this down and heading off to a high school football game, where the office doesn’t come into my mind at all.

Communication, Compassion, and The Xbox Story

“No matter where you are in your career, you can listen to people, support them, show compassion.”

Tim Sanders wrote that several years ago in one of my favorite business books, Love is the Killer App. As you might imagine, he’s collected many stories since then about situations where people have made the time to make real connections to others. Times they’ve sought out opportunities to slow down and have a real human-to-human conversation, and how those have helped build trust, loyalty & friendship – relationships that are “real” as well as “just for business.”

On his blog last week, Tim shares with us one of those stories, one that’s well worth setting aside six minutes of your day.

Turn off the distractions around you, read Tim’s blog posting, then click through and watch his video.

(go do it now.)

Yea – wow. To be sure, it takes a lot for someone to get to that point in their life and it’s a pretty extreme & rare situation — at least I sure hope it is. But just how do you know what’s going on in the lives of the people around you unless you take the time to sit down and communicate with them?