Building Awareness ~ Lessons from the Moon walking Bear

The other day I came across this little film clip that was, I gather, designed to draw our attention to the need for vigilance on the road.  It made me think about how easy it is to miss what’s going on, even when it’s right in front of us. Please watch the film.  It takes less than a minute. Honest.

How’d you do?  Did you get the number of passes right?  I did.  In fact, I felt quite   proud of myself until I realized what I had missed.  I was too busy concentrating on getting the numbers right to notice.  It happens.

This concentration on one thing to the exclusion of everything else happens to leaders too and yet I think we know that a leader’s job is never about just one thing.  It’s about a whole whack of things that go on around them all of the time and often at the same time.  Consequently, building awareness about themselves, their environment and those around them is a pretty big deal.  And, it’s a big deal that often makes the difference between success and failure.

The truth is, that while a few people may be particularly gifted with a keen sense of awareness, most of us need help.  Blind spots abound.  So what to do?

Well, whether you are working on improving your self, cultural or social awareness, it seems to me that just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a whole company to build awareness and to use what comes from it for the benefit of everyone involved.

Practically speaking, leaders who know the value of building awareness tend to do these four things to encourage and grow it in their organizations:

Invite: We are each provided with one pair of eyes, one pair of ears and one voice.  It only makes sense to invite more eyes, ears and voices to participate in achieving clarity of purpose and a common understanding of what’s important and why.  Multiple observations contribute to the formation of a shared picture and the awareness of the organization as a dynamic body, always changing and moving toward the accomplishment of shared goals.

Inquire:  Sometimes it is simply a matter of admitting when we don’t know something and asking others to help fill in the blanks.  This is particularly true when it comes to building self-awareness.  Enlightenment in these areas admittedly can be painful at times but also self-affirming. And, the truth is, the more we know about ourselves the better able we are to navigate the rough and the smooth without having to spend inordinate amounts of time thinking about ourselves.

Include: Often, it is tempting to gather around us only those who think like we do.  We like it because well, it just feels more comfortable.  But, building awareness in organizations is not about comfort or even being agreeable all the time.  It’s about getting a grip on what’s real and about creating depth of understanding that not only strengthens the organization but also the people it serves.

Intuit: Ah yes, the third eye…okay maybe not… but intuition often plays a part in building awareness.  It is sometimes not what is said but what is not said that seems the most obvious.  While operating from intuition alone can be a dangerous thing, there are times when those gut feelings serve a very useful purpose.  In fact, combined with inquiry and inclusion, it is a very powerful tool.

The bottom line is this:  One person cannot see everything.  Building awareness in organizations must be a collective effort with participation from many and diverse people. Leaders who value the eyes, ears and voices of those around them will be unlikely to miss the moon walking bear too often.

What do you think?

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8 Comments

Filed under building awareness, Building Relationships, communication, diversity

8 responses to “Building Awareness ~ Lessons from the Moon walking Bear

  1. Even knowing that there was a lesson in the video & that it probably wasn’t the passes, I still missed the bear. So easy to miss what’s going on.

    Your points about leadership and awareness are good ones. Related to your point about Include: I remember people with differing opinions, particularly if they were persistent in voicing them, being labeled as n0n-team players. Cherry

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Cherry,
      Yes, I remember that too and also remember that those “non-team players” were often conveniently left off the invitation list for meetings as well!
      Thanks for coming by!

  2. The 4 Eyes of Leadership Gwyn. Wonderful.

  3. Don’t get down on this classic mind trick.

    You were instructed to avoid looking at the black coloured shirts…

    Lets try a more lab prudent version of this test and let the bear wear a brown suit.. instead of a colour you were deliberately told to avoid looking at..

    ENBD../

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Erich, You make a good point. The video does manipulate the brain into missing the bear and, as you say, if the bear were to be a different colour from those in black, the likelihood would be we might have caught it in our peripheral vision. I chose to show it here though, as a metaphor for how easily we can miss people, things and events if we only rely on our own single pair of eyes and ears.
      Thank you for taking the time to comment! I hope you come again.

  4. Gwyn,
    Excellent, well constructed, thought-provoking post, as usual. My take-away is to build awareness, I’ve got to hire a bear.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Larry,
      Thanks for your kind remarks. And, as for the other thing, I guess building awareness in your book is about invite, inquire, include, intuit and clean up after! :-)

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