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I agree with Yogi Berra: "You can observe a lot by just watching."
However, as Max Bazerman explains in this brilliant book, more than watching is necessary: we must also notice and then, of perhaps even greater importance, we need to have developed a mind-set that enables us to recognize what is especially significant. This is what Isaac Asimov has in mind when observing, "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not "Eureka!" (I found it!) but 'That's funny...'" Hence the importance of anomalies. It is impossible to connect the dots to reveal patterns, trends, causal relationships, etc. unless you know what the right "dots" are and connect them in the right way. The same is true of accumulating disparate data (viewed as pieces of a puzzle) and know how to assemble them in proper order.
As Bazerman explains, "The Power of Noticing challenges leaders to also be noticing architects. Leaders too often fail to notice that they have designed systems that encourage a misspecified goal (booked sales) rather than a more appropriate one (actual profit to the organization). I encourage all leaders to become better noticing architects and to design systems that encourage employees to notice what is truly important." All of the great leaders throughout history were great noticers. With rare exception, they helped others to become great (or at least competent) noticers.
In the second chapter, Bazerman suggests that inattentional blindness "is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to our failure to notice. Much worse -- and well-documented -- is the common tendency to willfully ignore inconvenient evidence of others' unethical behavior. In Dante's Inferno, the last and worst ring in hell is reserved for those who, in a moral crisis, preserve their neutrality. Inattentional blindness has been a problem for several centuries. Consider this observation by Thucydides: "When a man finds a conclusion agreeable, he accepts it without argument, but when he finds it disagreeable, he will bring against it all the forces of logic and reason."
These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Bazerman's coverage.
o The Broader Argument: Our Failure to Notice (Pages xix-xxi) o From Bounded Awareness to Removing the Blinders (13-15) o Jerry Sandusky Scandal (16-25) o Broad Oversight (36-42) o Implicit Blindness (50-61) o Negotiating the Wrong Deal (78-82) o Not Noticing on a Slippery Slope (88-92) o Sherlock Holmes in "Silver Blaze": The Dog That Didn't Bark (101-109) o Not Noticing the Ingredients of a Financial Collapse, and, It IS Too Good to Be True (126-132) o The Market for Lemons (139-145) o Cynicism: The Dark Side of Thinking One Step Ahead (146-150) o Walking the Customer: "We Reward Results!"(159-162) o Failing to Notice Predictable Surprises (171-172) o The Power of Noticing Predictable Surprises (178-180) o A Noticing Mind-Set (182-185) o Nothing Is Easier for Outsiders (187-191)
Obviously, no brief commentary such as mine can possibly do full justice to the scope and depth of information, insights, and counsel that Max Bazerman provides in abundance. However, I hope I have at least indicated why I think so highly of his book. He concludes: "As I hope you have learned by now, focusing is important, but sometimes noticing is better -- at least when you are making critical decisions. In hope that this book has provided useful guidance to help you, as a focuser, also become a first-class noticer." I presume to add a few points of my own. First, we tend to see what we expect to see and notice little else. Also, as Thucydides suggests, we tend to embrace that with which we agree and reject that withwhich we don't. Finally, it is extremely difficult but nonetheless possible -- and perhaps imperative -- to establish a culture within which noticing is not only a core competency but an embedded value.
Given what Bazerman has produced previously, this was very disappointing, mainly consisting of already well documented problems and how they were solved. This topic was at best worth a magazine article.
When last did you wonder: How could that have happened? Why did I not see that coming? Why did I not notice the signs that are so clear in retrospect? Professor Brazerman offers insights into why this happens, how it happens and how to get better at noticing. This book, he promises, “will provide you with the tools you need to open your eyes and truly notice for the first time— and for the rest of your life.” The type of noticing Brazerman is referring to is not of a trivial type. Consider these two examples taken from the book. After the awful events of 9/11, Brazerman reports that he jotted down core pieces of evidence that authorities should have noticed. “The U.S. government knew that terrorists were willing to become martyrs for their cause and that their hatred toward the United States was increasing. In 1993 terrorists had bombed the World Trade Center. In 1994 terrorists had hijacked an Air France plane and made an aborted attempt to turn the plane into a missile aimed at the Eiffel Tower. Also in 1994, terrorists had attempted to hijack twelve U.S. commercial airplanes in Asia, simultaneously. Airline passengers know how easy it is to board an airplane with items, such as small knives that can be used as weapons.” JPMorgan Chase, the venerable financial institute lead by the brilliant Jamie Dimon failed to notice the bank’s exposure in their London branch. By September 2013, these huge bets failed, creating trading losses in excess of $ 6 billion. I recall seeing a billboard outside a church that read: “If you love God, hoot. If you want to meet Him, text.” Accidents happen when drivers are focusing on tasks other than driving, such as talking on a cell phone or texting. Not noticing has many causes, some of which relate to focusing on something else. Chapter 5 has the title: What Do Magicians, Thieves, Advertisers, Politicians, and Negotiators Have in Common? Magicians, Brazerman explains have mastered the skill of “keeping entire groups of people from noticing what should be clearly visible to them.” Magicians distract your attention and then take advantage of the short time when your mind is attending to other information. Advertisers do the same thing when they compare the specs of one product with another. Their product always has advantages the others do not. Like a magician, they distract you with these attributes so that you do not ask the real question: Do these attributes matter to me? Do I care if my phone is lighter by 10 grams? Do I take enough photos with my phone to justify the price difference? Magicians watch other magicians distract to understand the trick. Once you are aware of how we are distracted, you too will be able to notice when others are doing it to you. Perhaps the hardest most-difficult issues to notice are the type that are part of our psyche. They come in many forms, one of which is the incentive not to notice. PricewaterhouseCoopers had been the company auditor of Satyam, the global IT company for the nine years before the fraud that was holding up the company was exposed. A ten day due diligence exercise conducted by Merrill Lynch detected the fraud. “Interestingly Satyam paid PWC about twice the normal audit fees in the industry,” notes Brazerman. Having a personal interest in not noticing does impair one’s ability to notice. Psychologists refer to this impairment as “motivated blindness.” It stops business people noticing when they are being defrauded by people they have trusted, and parents noticing that their children are on drugs. We are motivated by our emotional relationships not to notice. In 2012 Barclays paid fines of $ 450 million after admitting to manipulating the calculation of the London InterBank Offered Rate. This manipulation that cost many investors dearly was committed by a number of huge banks and with the knowledge of many members of staff. Journalist Naomi Wolf wrote in the Guardian: “It is very hard… to ignore the possibility that this kind of silence…is simply rewarded by promotion to ever higher positions, ever greater authority.” There is also “moral blindness,” where people ignore the abuse of others when they could have reported it and stopped it. In many cases, there is an incentive not to notice. Jamie Dimon commented on the costly error at JPMorgan Chase: “The big lesson I learned: Don’t get complacent despite a successful track record.” Brazerman takes this lesson wider and asserts “successful leadership is defined by vigilance.” A good place to start is to notice whether there are processes in your company that encourage the wrong behaviour. Notice that the commissioned salesman is recommending the highest priced product in the range or the waiter the most-expensive wine. Notice whether people asked hard questions have answering what were asked by the time they have finished talking. Were they following Robert McNamara advice: “Don’t answer the question you were asked. Answer the question you wish you were asked.” This book succeeds in the achieving its aim of assisting the reader to notice more, simply by the exposure to instances of not noticing. Like a magician who focuses on how other magicians are trying to distract, cognizance is a great leap forward.
Readability Light --+-- Serious Insights High -+--- Low Practical High -+--- Low
*Ian Mann of Gateways consults internationally on leadership and strategy and is the author of Strategy that Works.
Bazerman purposely correlates 9/11 with specific people he has singled out for standing up to corporate treason against Americans! Bazerman purposely misconstrues the correlation between paying attention to detail and WHY employees push back at the corporate greed machine. Moreover, he has now linked these brave peoples names with 9/11; the biggest scam in US history! (Intentionally done) It is apparent however, Bazerman wrote this book as a character hit piece; and he, nothing more than a PAID corporate character hitman making sure these brave whistleblowers are forever demonized for standing up to corporate corruption and greed!
We should all thank Prof Bazerman for this book, and also thank him for the other books that he has co-authored with his collegues. Prof Bazerman and his collaborators have made tremendous contributions in bringing the science and the insights of the psychological research on judgement and decision making into the context of real-world management for both private sector and public sector organisations. If you want to improve the way your organisation makes decisions, this book on the Power of Noticing, his textbook on Judgement and Decision Making (8th edition), and his other books are essential reading. As organisations are increasingly investing in building their analytics and AI capabilities, I think it is more important than ever to understand how people, teams, and organisations overall actually process the information presented to them and make decisions.
In short, I highly recommend this book. It is very well done. It is well crafted and easy to read. It is relevant to practitioners. And it is firmly rooted in evidence and the appropriate bodies of psychological and social science research findings.
Definitely the worst in this genre. Most books in this arena use a LOT of examples to explain a few concepts, but this book takes the cake: literally no meat and repeated fluff. The only advice in this book comes in the last 3 pages.
Bazerman’s writing is off putting. Clearly “negotiation genius” was mostly written by Deepak. He adds unnecessary detail about personal stories that can only be meant to brag (“look at me I’m a vegetarian!” “Look at me, I did this high profile case with the DOJ but donated my fees to charity!”.... oh brother). His political bias is nauseating and distracting.
I had someone I admire recommend this book and Amazon reviews were good. I read a lot of leadership books and this ranks as one of the worst. PLEASE do NOT waste your money on this book. He repeats the same case study over and over, one we all know very well. I typically read a book and pass it onto someone I am mentoring. This one will go in the recycling bin.
I found many of the concepts very interesting and the author has a lot go good advice for leaders in all fields. The examples he gives of the importance of remaining watchful so that we notice the unusual and anomalous things that go on around us help to remind us of the benefits of doing so. Unfortunately, he gets on to his political soapbox a little too often, which detracted from my enjoyment of the book.
I believe that the book benefits readers from an array of backgrounds and interests. It’s central theme is that we rarely have in front of us all of the information needed to make effective decisions; and more importantly, we do not seek it out and/or ask for more information even when it may be readily available.
It took two readings for me to fully grasp the learning points the author provided through a variety of examples ranging from the 9/11 terrorists attack, Hurricane Katrina, and to the housing crisis and economic recession; but it was worth it. The principles shared have day to day application in our personal and professional lives.
The book is a book about leadership and how we need to take responsibility for noticing when things seem wrong, when additional information is needed to make more effective decisions, and when our own self biases are at work in the decisions we make.
He summarizes the book with a list of characteristics that describe first class noticers. They are intensely attentive to their own and others behavior; they see opportunities that others miss; think multiple steps ahead; and are suspicious of things that are too good to be true.
I highly recommend it to the reader who wants to improve their decision making through noticing the motivation of their own and others behavior.