Change blindness is an amazing phenomenon that demonstrates our perceptual limitations. It refers to incidents in which people fail to notice seemingly obvious changes in their surroundings. It’s real. And, it’s a big problem.
A Wall Street Journal article reported this week on an experiment conducted by Dr. Daniel Simon of the University of Illinois that illustrates how change blindness works. A man, we’ll call him the “subject”, is asked by a passerby on a street for directions. The passerby begins to tell him how to get to his destination. In mid-sentence, two “workmen” lug a large wooden door right between the passerby and subject. As the door passes between them, the passerby is quickly replaced by a completely different-looking man. Remarkably, the subject fails to notice the switch and continues giving directions as if nothing had happened. This was repeated over and over again with the same results. Later, the subjects were told of the change and they are astonished.
In a related experiment, subjects are asked to watch a video of several people bouncing and passing soccer balls and count how many times a ball is passed to those who are wearing white shirts. During the scene, a man in gorilla suit comes on camera, jumps about a bit, and then walks off camera. Afterward, the subjects are asked if they saw anything unusual in the video. More than half don’t see the gorilla.
See both videos on Dr. Simon’s site.
These experiments demonstrate how easily we fail to see obvious changes that can affect us. In the trucking business, we have our own versions of change blindness. We get so focused on subject A that we often miss the changes going on with subject B. For example:
A.) We’re so focused on creating expensive advertising to attract drivers that we B.) miss the need to make it easy for them to apply with us.
A.) We’re so focused on gathering required documents that we B.) fail to follow a consistent hiring process that results in a good driver.
A.) We’re so focused on getting fresh butts in seats that we B.) miss the opportunity to get our new drivers off to a positive, welcoming start.
A.) We’re so focused on finding and hiring new drivers that we B.) fail to take care of the ones we have.
We all suffer from change blindness. It’s up to you to put processes in place that reduce its negative effects.