As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve been reading The Age of the Unthinkable, after it was recommended by my friend, Chap Clark.
The author, Joshua Cooper Ramo, summarizes some research conducted on college students at the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor, MI. Eye focus was tracked using technology, so that when students were shown different pictures, the technology would trace where the eye focused on the picture, and for how long.
The results? American students tended to look immediately at the main image in the foreground of the picture (i.e., the tiger or the horse). Once they locked onto that central image, their eyes stayed there.
Chinese students, on the other hand, usually looked at the environment around the main object first, and were never as fixated on the central image.
Ramo goes on to imply that folks need to adopt a view of the world more akin to those of Chinese descent—very aware of the context and background and not getting locked onto something too quickly.
That’s true, but I can point to a dozen leadership/management books on my shelves that would say the opposite—that we need more focus on what’s central.
I think we need both—an ability to look at what’s in front of us and an ability to scan the environment. But let me ask you this: is one more important than the other? In our changing culture, do we need to be more aware of the environment than we used to? The Age of Uncertainty would argue for that, but I’m curious what you think…
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