All of us would like to think that we are fairly aware of what goes on around us each and every day. But how many times have we lost our car keys and then we find them in a spot that we looked a hundred times? Or when you open the pantry to retrieve a product and fail to see it – even though it’s setting right in front of you at eye level? It’s because our awareness is limited to some extent. We have consciously trained ourselves to only see what we want to see, and in a manner we want to see it…and anything that doesn’t fit into our frame of thinking is basically invisible to our thought process. The same holds true in our daily decision making.
Making routine decisions involves the collection of information, the review of that information and then determining how best to use that information. But due to our bounded awareness, most of us fail to see certain information or recognize the relevance of information that we do see. Simply by understanding that it’s natural to have bounded awareness that limits our view on certain issues, you can train yourself to look beyond the narrow scope of issues and to broaden your view in order to make the best possible decision. To understand where we are failing in this process will help us to be more successful in the long run. So, how can you increase your awareness? Here are four suggestions:
- See Information – Train yourself to see what you’re really looking for…AND what you’re not looking for. Always ask yourself questions that will force you to pay attention to those areas you’re typically unaware of.
- Seek Out Information – Intentionally look for information that is missing. The lack of contradictory data implies that you or your team is falling prey to bounded awareness. Make sure you have someone nearby that will continually ask inquisitive questions. Assume that all of the information you need to make an informed decision is within your own organization – because often times, it is.
- Use All Information – Make sure you’re not focusing on one piece of information too much, but that you are consciously looking at the full context of all the information you have collected. You’ll be less likely to disregard important data if you look at the ‘big picture’ instead of honing in on one piece of data.
- Share Information – Everyone has information. Therefore, it’s critical to create structures that make information sharing the norm. For example, gathering updates from others will increase the likelihood that individual information is shared with the whole group – which may lead to ‘seeing something you never saw before’.