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Remembering that your mind can be easily tricked

If you want to have a breakthrough in 2017, remember that our minds can be easily tricked. Pause before believing and acting on what you see, hear, read or feel.



While travelling in Tokyo we visited a mind twisting place called the Trick Art Museum. Here are a few fun photos.


They look 3D but they are 2D paintings. It reminded me how easily the human mind can be tricked. What we see is coloured by:

  • Our past experience
  • Our assumptions
  • What we 'know' to be true
  • Beliefs
  • Conditioning


Our mental short cuts cause us to see things in a certain way and believe what we see. 0ur mnds are vry gd at fllng in the gps and mkng thngs up. 


Implications for the workplace is wide reaching. 


Communication and relationships suffer: Assumptions can be dangerous, especially between people. For example, imagine the effect of believing that a colleague is deliberately hiding information when they have simply forgotten to give you the information. (See Assumptions: The Silent Assasin)


Misunderstandings cause damage: We don’t listen to each other properly because we hear what confirms our beliefs (confirmation bias). It can cause misunderstandings, damage trust, disengage people or result in a major customer problem and reputational damage. (See Listen - it's your secret leadership advantage)


Innovation stalls: Innovation is often limited by what we believe to be 'true'. Disrupters are those who challenge or ignore these beliefs. It’s too late to adjust our beliefs when the disrupters have already made their move. (See Stop killing potential with “You don't look/sound/feel like a ...”)


We limit others’ potential: We make up our minds way too quickly about what others are capable of, based on first impressions coloured by all kinds of biases. Unfortunately these beliefs shape how we treat them and how they perform. (See Stifled by Stereotypes)


We limit our own potential: What we believe about ourselves is coloured by past conditioning and our interpretations about what's happened in our past. These can be limiting or expansive, depending on the beliefs we continue to carry. (See Why we tell ourselves "I can't" rather than "I can")


We claim to have meritocracy when it’s not really: We may believe we have a meritocracy based organisation but how much are our minds tricked by mental short cuts? The whole notion of meritocracy is somewhat subjective because we don't objectively 'see' the full picture when making assessments about people.


So here are some tips on having breakthroughs this year, should you choose to have a go:


  1. Remember to challenge our beliefs – about others, ourselves, the business, sources of problems, about what we’re ‘seeing’ – especially when we strongly believe something to be true.  Even if it's a glimpse of a possibility, it loosens the stronghold these beliefs have on us.
  2. We can ask ourselves ‘what if’ questions. What if it's not true, even if it's partially? What if the opposite is true? What if I’ve missed something?
  3. Engage with a non-believer. Be curious and listen closely to their perspectives without shutting them down. What if a little bit, some, if not most of what they believe is also true?
  4. Reframe beliefs as hypotheses. Beliefs can stop us from seeing fully or changing our minds, hypotheses allow us to be more open to see other possibilities or admit that our initial view was wrong. Given that at some point we have to take action and we often don't have time to pause and challenge our beliefs, reframing as hypotheses allow us to adapt more quickly.
  5. Play with the idea that ‘believing is seeing’. While we have the saying, seeing is believing, the opposite is also true. We see things because we believe it to exist. So if we challenge our beliefs we may see possibilities that we had never seen before.


The Quietly Powerful Women’s initiative aims to help quieter women to succeed on their own terms (see The Double Glazed Glass Ceiling), with the bigger aim of challenging our beliefs around what good leadership looks like. Introductory breakfasts have attracted over 250 women in just a few months. More events are planned for 2017 so register or add your name to the waitlist in Melbourne (Melbourne breakfasts registration) and Sydney (Sydney breakfast registration).


Related articles:

Do you have to be an extrovert to get ahead?

Quietly Powerful – an oxymoron or truth

White paper: Quietly Powerful – be heard, get ahead and make a difference without feeling fake as a quieter professional woman

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