Have you seen those Magic Eye 3D books? I came across one recently, and they are amazing! Each book contains two-dimensional pictures that look like nothing more than random patterns repeated over and over again across the page. But – and here’s where the magic occurs – when you focus the eyes in a certain way while looking at the pictures, they suddenly transform from 2D into 3D, revealing a depth of image that is breathtaking. In fact, the 3D images appear so real it seems like you could reach into the page and touch them.
Magic Eye pictures, An advanced form of stereogram (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stereogram), work by manipulating a repeating pattern to control the perceived depth and hide a three-dimensional image in a two-dimensional pattern. When presented with a Magic Eye image, your eyes might each look at two different points. But the repeating image pattern tricks the brain into thinking the two spots are the same, which creates the perception of depth.
The trick is you have to relax the eyes, stop focusing on the image, and just look in order to get the 3D effect. Otherwise, you end up staring at the page and nothing happens. It takes some people a while to let go of their normal focus and perceive the 3D effect. But when it finally happens, the perception is stunning.
Why am I writing about this?
Because it reinforces two concepts I constantly talk about. One, the human brain is an amazing organ, capable of incredible feats of logic and intuition. Two, despite its awesome powers, our brain often causes us to see what we want to see rather than what is really in front of us. It does that because perception takes place far more in the brain than in the eyes, and that’s a critical concept for today’s business leaders.
When markets can change almost at the speed of light, one of the most valuable skills a business leader can have is the ability to look at the world and see things differently. Yet, we get so focused on looking at the “image” of our business that we don’t see changes in our customers or markets even when they’re right in front of us. Instead, we see what we already know about our business and our industry, so we continue doing things the same way. Then we’re shocked when a competitor comes along and eats our lunch by seeing things differently.
To make this even more difficult, not only do we need to see things as they really are, we also need to see things as they could be. In other words, we have to accurately perceive our current customers’ needs, and we have to imagine where they might be in six months to a year (maybe longer, depending on your industry). And that involves looking at the world without trying to force what we see into our preconceived ideas, attitudes and beliefs.
How do we get in the habit of “just looking” at the world? Try these suggestions from my new book Using Your Brain to Win:
- Pause from time to time and ask, what if? What if we did it this way instead of how we always do it? What if we didn’t know anything about our business; what would we do differently to add value to our market? What if we could solve the biggest problem for our customers that nobody in our industry is solving?
- Expand your sources of data, both internally and externally. If you typically only work with marketing or finance, make a point to talk with people in operations or customer service. Subscribe to newsletters, blogs or journals outside your industry. Visit trade shows and conventions that have nothing to do with your product.
- Invite an associate to lunch and talk about their business. This will force you to think about your own business in new and different ways.
- Stop jumping to solutions. The business world moves so quickly that when we have a problem or opportunity, we tend to grab the first good idea that comes along. Instead, put it aside and ask, what might we be missing here? How else could we approach this?
If you haven’t yet seen a Magic Eye image, visit their website (www.magiceye.com) or check them out at a bookstore. In the meantime, take a moment to pause and just look at the world around you without focusing on what you already know. You’ll be amazed at what you might see!
Call to action: Do one thing to pause and just look today.