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Selective Blindness
Why Others Just Don’t Get It

Project management basics are pretty straightforward, so why doesn’t everyone get it?  The problem is we each see reality through a different set of filters based on our own life experiences.

If you are looking through a red filter, you will not see blue, regardless of how much you turn up the lights.  Likewise if you are looking through a blue filter, you will not see red no matter how hard you try.  Think of project management as looking through a red filter, then think of inventing new technology as looking through a blue filter.  The two are different.  This means talking louder and more clearly about best practices won’t help you communicate more effectively with the inventor who filters out best practices in favor of new practices.

The answer to selective blindness is to use a language that is meaningful to a different set of filters.  Instead of saying, “According to Project Management Institute’s best practices…” try offering the same ideas in a different way, such as, “I was reading something new, and it suggested you might try…”  Phrased this way, the inventor’s filters let the rest of the sentence through, loud and clear.

Think of best practices as something that passes through the quality filter, and think of new ideas as something that passes through the future filter.  There is another important filter, the people filter.  Some people go to work every day to get tasks done.  Others go to work for the social aspect.  If everyone else is happy, they are happy, regardless of the level of quality, or the amount of innovation.  Talking to these people about best practices, or new ideas will get nowhere because everything you say will get filtered out unless you relate to how it affects the people.

If you want to get past selective blindness, say everything three times, once through the quality filter, once through the future filter, and once through the people filter.  Here is an example.  Let’s say you just presented some information and you want to get someone’s reaction.  Try saying, “What do you think?  How do you feel?  Where can this go?”  Believe it or not, most of us will filter out most of your words and focus on the phrase that makes sense.  With these three phrases we addressed the quality, people and future filters.

The reason Systemation offers a project management curriculum rather a single class is because effective project mangers need to see the same ideas through multiple filters, and that cannot be done through a single class with a single focus.  To be an effective at project manger you need to learn multiple skills for multiple situations.

The filters analogy based on 3-Filters Technology, by Larry Nelson.

 Copyright © 2007, Steve Wille