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Perception and Observation

May 13, 2022
Est. Reading: 2 minute

Are you familiar with Sun Tzu? A military strategist, philosopher, and writer, Sun Tzu has been credited with defining Chinese warfare - recounting stories of fighting off many worthy and feared opponents, in some cases doing so without even a weapon for defense.

Business leaders have cited Sun Tzu and his writings entitled "The Art of War" for their wisdom, insight, and tactics that correlate to not only a war of soldiers and swords but of employees and products.

As a military strategist, he leveraged what is known as "Sage Knowledge" - using the present to predict the future, combining intelligence, perception and observation to make strategic decisions.

The Importance of Observation

By its definition, observing is the ability to notice things, especially significant details. When we observe something, we are mindful of not only what is happening and how, but also the state of the environment by which the action is happening.

These details become key when combining them with our intelligence to overcome complex challenges - in the same way a general might observe that the opposing army's food/water supplies are dwindling. Instead of charging an attack, they simply wait... biding their time and holding for the opposition to grow weaker or even starve.

The battle is won without a single advance.

The Perception Trap

All too often, we base our decisions and thought processes on what we perceive to be true, as opposed to what we have observed to be true.

When left to our perceptions, the outcomes we envision are almost always worse than what they actually are.

The trap is in perceiving what will happen without taking into account the details and information derived from what we are able to observe. In this case, perception replaces observation.

If the general from the prior example would have been led by his perceptions - looking out over a camp of thousands of opposing soldiers, he would have missed their shortage of food stores and potentially led his troops into a battle they may not have been able to win.

The Point?

When left to perceive what will happen, our minds will most always paint a picture that is gloomier (even if you are an infinite optimist) than what plays out in reality.

It is our role as leaders in our companies and organizations to realize when perceptions are trying to creep their way into our minds and instead, ensure that we make our decisions based on the observations we have, and the intelligence from challenges past to drive optimal results for our teams and our businesses.

Thank you for reading and make it a great week!

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