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Seeing what you look for:The blindness of performance management.

In the last blog we moved from using just one eye, to talking about how that limits your perspective. In the same way limited measurement systems limit your perspective of the business.

In this research groups of people are shown a video. The video contains a group of people – some in black shirts and others in white shirts. Both groups move around each other passing basket balls to each other. The white shirted ones to other white shirted people. The black shirted one to other black shirted people.

The question you are asked, is “How many times do the white shirted people pass the ball to one another.” The observers had to press a key when they saw a pass.

You can watch this video on

(It does take a while to load and you need to press the green button to start it).

Watch the video now otherwise the next piece will ruin it.

After watching the video, you are asked, how many passes there were? You are also asked, was there anything unusual about the video?

Actually these was something unusual. A colleague saw this video amongst a group of sixty people. Afterwards only one person spotted the unusual thing. A man dressed as a gorilla wanders into the picture, bangs his chest and wanders out.

Isn’t that fascinating. By directing our attention to the detailed task of counting the passes which are quite intricate with both groups passing the ball amongst themselves, we completely miss the gorilla.

When told this story I was immediately struck by how this is similar to the sort of detailed analysis of measures that some organisations undertake. They are so focused they miss the other occurrences. Other events that might be very important. They call this “Inattention blindness” because they are not watching for it they can’t see it. Does that ring any bells? Have you noticed this in your organisation?

You can find out more about their research into inattention blindness at

On the other hand you could pay more attention to what you or others may be missing in your organisation, couldn’t you.

Phil Jones
Strategy & Performance Specialist