If you are not among the 22 million people who have taken the Awareness Test on YouTube, then you should take the test before reading on.
Seriously, Test Your Awareness: Do The Test
As you now know, the awareness test begins simply, with the words “Awareness Test.”
You see eight people standing in a row under a bridge dressed to play basketball, the four on the left wear white shirts, the four in the right black shirts. The screen asks: How many passes does the team in white make?
Immediately both teams begin bouncing around the screen, weaving in and out of each other, throwing basketballs to their team mates. Truth be told, it is not all that hard to count that the white team has passed the ball 13 times before the action freezes and the screen displays:
And then, a rather strange question is asked:
Did you see the moonwalking bear?
It turns out, while we are hyper-focused on counting the passes of the white team a person dressed as a large black bear walks into the middle of the screen, dances, and then moonwalks off the screen.
And we didn’t notice it.
Don’t worry. If you missed the bear you are not alone. A vast majority of the people who are focused on counting the passes totally miss the moonwalking bear. The video ends with the words:
It is easy to miss something you are not looking for.
Look out for cyclists. A great viral video. I believe, by the way, this advice could be better. It should end with “Stay broadly aware while driving.” Driving requires an openness to perpetually changing situations. The mistake is to get caught up in “anything” that demands your focus other than the road. This is why texting and smart phones are as dangerous as drunk drivers.
However, what happens if someone watches the basketball video without any instructions on what to count? They see the moonwalking bear every time. The problem was counting. Or, in my world, the problem was the metric.
If I were making the video for my clients it would end with the words “Look out for metrics.”
Whatever you ask people to count gets their attention. They become so focused on getting the count right they miss the moonwalking bears.
Early in my career I used to point out moonwalking bears—a common trait for engineers. It turns out, this mainly annoys people. They are getting paid to count passes, so usually they pretend they don’t see the bear. Or, if they finally see it, they declare “The bear doesn’t matter.” This is actually true if all you really care about is basketball passes.
But the moonwalking bears do, in fact, almost always matter. Not seeing what is dancing right in front of our faces matters. It potentially changes everything.
However, I have stopped pointing out the bears. It isn’t enough. I now focus on helping my clients see the bears themselves. I work to change behaviors that limit perception. I change what, how, when, and where they count.
Only by changing our focus can we see what is clearly in front of us.