– Every now and then you need to take a step back.

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Back before I was married and lived up north, I had a good friend who I would pal around with. We were somewhat of a “Mutt and Jeff” team whereby I was the tall one and my friend was the short one. Nevertheless, he came over to visit my condo one day and as we were leaving he happened to notice a light switch in my patio area. It was daytime and he went over to see what the switch was used for. He turned it on and off several times, but couldn’t see what it was doing. Unbeknownst to him, the switch was used to turn on and off an outdoor globe light which was located just three feet above his head, but from where he was standing he couldn’t see anything. To me, who was standing about ten feet away, it was all rather comical as I watched the light above his head turn on and off several times while my friend grew more exasperated with the switch. I suggested we change places and I turned on the switch whereby my friend could finally “see the light.”

I tend to call this phenomenon “tunnel vision” and I sure seem to run into a lot of people these days who suffer from it. We see such people in the office all the time, but you can also see them driving on the highway or pushing a shopping cart in the store; people who are totally absorbed with what they are doing and are oblivious to everything else around them.

It’s one thing to be focused on the task at hand, but every now and then you have to step back and see what you are really doing. I don’t think there are enough people who see the big picture and are absorbed with their own piece of the puzzle. You see this a lot in business, particularly among clerks and I.T. people who are obsessed with minutia and lose sight of the fact that all of their energies should be geared elsewhere, such as promoting sales and servicing customers.

I used to blame this on the personal prioritization skills of people, but I think it goes beyond this. For example, even when you point out the big picture to some people, they will continue to keep flipping the switch like my friend did. This leads me to believe there are certain types of people who are incapable of seeing the big picture and prefer operating with blinders on. I think this goes back to personality types (e.g., Type A, B, C, and D) whereby some people can conceptualize and others need more detail. To illustrate, it is fairly easy for me to read a set of blueprints or artist renderings to conceptualize how a building or product will look. However, I know a lot of people who cannot assimilate in this regards and require a physical model in order to understand how something will look. However, I believe we have many more detailists out there than we have conceptualists.

I primarily work in the I.T. world and have met more than my share of people who were so fixated with a problem that they overlooked the obvious solution. This is a situation where it is helpful to have a second set of eyes look over your shoulder who is more likely to see the problem. Interestingly, people resist having others look over their work due to pride or arrogance. Nonetheless we need more people to be able to take a step back and look at the big picture (I would use the word “global” but that’s a $3 word that has been overused enough). But to stubbornly remain blinded due to tunnel vision does everyone a disservice, particularly yourself. If you keep switching on and off a switch and see no apparent results, perhaps it’s time to step back a few feet or let someone else take a look. Just remember, the obvious is not always obvious.

Originally published: April 8, 2008


Also published with News Talk Florida.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at [email protected]

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2016 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.


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Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; KIT-AM (1280) in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific); and WWBA-AM (News Talk Florida 820). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube.

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