Everything Outside It Is Obscure
The spotlight effect is thinking that what you see is all there is. Chip Heath & Dan Heath
Metaphorically you can’t observe your reality with a spotlight; you need more than a spotlight, and more than a wide-angle lens. You need perceptual insight, perceiving in an intuitive manner. Intuition is the faculty of knowing or sensing without the use of rational processes. You can’t see all of reality with your vision.
This blog is the result of my reading Decisive, How To Make Better Decisions In Life And Work, 2013 by Chip Heath & Dan Heath. It promotes another metaphor, the spotlight, for understanding the way we see things. A spotlight focuses on a spot, therefore you only see that spot. I like this metaphor because it helps to describe the way we see things in a way that might help us better “see” the way we see things. We shine our spotlights on information close at hand, and then draw conclusions from that information, Chip Heath & Dan Heath.
The Heath brothers urge us to switch from auto spotlight to manual spotlight. Rather than make choices based on what naturally comes to your attention — visceral emotions, self-serving information, overconfident predictions, and so on — you deliberately illuminate more strategic spots. You sweep you light over a broader landscape and point it into hidden corners.
This reminds me of John Beckett’s distinction between process thinking and “seeing only snapshots” in The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge. Snapshot, by definition, is an isolated observation. You can’t see very much of all there is with one isolated observation; or with spotlight seeing. You need more than single observation; you need perceptual insight, sensing the way things are, without seeing it all. This is realizing “the way I see things is not all there is.”
“Zooming in and zooming out” is another strategy the Heath brothers recommend. Taking the “inside view”, zooming in, is our default bias. When we zoom out, we take the outside view, learning from others. When we zoom in, we take a close-up of the situation. Either strategy is helpful. When possible we should do both.
This metaphor is also useful for the way you view the future. You can’t imagine the future with a spotlight; the future isn’t a point, it is a range. Chip Heath & Dan Heath