After some weeks away, I’m here again, hoping that you too had some time to do nothing and have fun. During this time off, I reflected about how our context impact our lives. And, being that important, how there are things that we take for granted, and never question because it’s the water we swim in, as the fish in the story from David Foster Wallace. There are things that we just don’t see. When we lost sight of what is totally obvious, our view is incomplete, and our perceptions, worse.
Water, what is water?
The water we swim in is our context at two levels: general and personal. I mean, we’re still suffering the effects of the pandemic and the war in Europe, the beginning of what it seems an economic crisis in the West; China and the US fighting for the pre-eminence in the political field, and many other uncountable events. At a personal level, each one of us have their circumstances. The company we work for, the country or the city we live in, the education we have, the culture we’ve been raised in, our family and friends, or our medical condition shape our context too.
At times, and unless there is a significant change in our context, we pay little attention to what surrounds us. When we work with more people, we usually forget about the way that others’ unique circumstances may affect their professional lives. In both cases, we miss opportunities just because we don’t see what is totally obvious.
Attention is our most scarce resource, and thus one of the most expensive. When, how, and where we use our attention impacts what information we gather, how we establish connections; how we perform, what our opportunities are.
However, in this world today, control our attention is a very challenging task. We’re surrounded by thousands of millions of events bombing us with uncountable bits of information, while all we have is a limited capacity to receive that information. This is a reason to not perceive what is totally obvious.
Moreover, as Daniel Kahneman states in his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, “we don’t always consciously control our thoughts and actions, judgements and choices”. Social and cultural conditions can guide our thinking.
Therefore, we need to choose carefully what to pay attention to and what we make with the information we gather.
Guide your attention
Attention is one of the cornerstones in relationships. Thus, it’s essential for leaders. They must train their attention muscle to see what usually goes unnoticed. Besides, due to the complexity and the pace of changes in the context, they need it to find new opportunities and make better decisions.
Leaders in this digital era can’t be lost in the water anymore. The environmental conditions can’t be taken for granted if we want to thrive. Maybe the answers lay on what we used to think it was totally obvious.