How carefully do you look? Can you beat the radiologists?

OK, I want you to imagine for a moment that you are a top radiologist, examining CT-scans for minute traces of possible cancer. Get yourself into that mindset, then examine this scan:

So, what did you notice? Did you fixate on a couple of white dots and try to decide if they were cancer or not? Or, did you see the gorilla in the top right hand corner?

If you missed the gorilla, you are actually in good company. 83% of all highly skilled, highly trained, highly focussed radiologists did not notice the ape. You can read more about the study here.

Shocking? Actually not really. The radiologists’ training has taught them to focus in on specific things they are looking for. They miss the obvious because they are striving to see the subtle. They strain out a gnat and swallow a camel. (Matthew 23:24).

Here’s the interesting point. Is it possible that if you are a church leader, are you so over-familiar with what happens at your church, and the things that you look out for that there is a dancing gorilla you haven’t noticed? Might you benefit from speaking to someone who doesn’t work for you? Maybe even someone who is not a part of your church? Ask them what they notice. It could be something as simple as an absence of signs for the rest rooms (something I have noticed as a problem in more than one church!) It could of course be something very important, too.

This principle of a fresh pair of eyes being needed sometimes extends to all kinds of areas. Perhaps the view of the non-expert which has been popularised by blogs helps even experts to see things differently. Grudem argues that it is essential that the work of theology and leadership in churches is not left solely to the paid professionals stating:

It is always wise to have a governing structure where the highest governing offices in the church and the highest positions of influence are open to lay people as well as ordained people. The denominations where only clergy have the highest of authority seem to be the ones that are never able to be brought back once they drift into liberalism because the ordinary lay people who have common sense and are reading their Bibles every day don’t have any way to regain control of a denomination that has gone astray if it has that kind of structure.

The same is true in businesses, where an outsider can help point out the foolishness of a strategic decision, or an obvious opportunity you have missed. That is the role of the non-executive director on the board, and I’ve begun to understand how that works serving as an NED for one company.

It is also true in your own life. Who have you entrusted to challenge you and point out the gorilla you are missing?

Are you an expert at rooting out subtle things? Or are you someone who never fails to spot the obvious. I think we need both sorts of people, actually. And in all our endeavours we must learn to make best use of both.

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  • Dorfl

    That’s pretty cool. I had seen the version where you’re asked to keep track of a ball being passed between a number of basketball players, and end up missing the gorilla that walks past in the background. But I hadn’t realised that you could get the same effect with a static image.