Monday, April 14, 2008


A good part of the past weekend was spent helping my daughter complete her science project on optical illusions. I learned a great deal from what she was doing, not the least of which is the difficulty brains have in processing illusions. Some people see illusions and some don't. It is not a function of age, physical or mental ability or of anything obvious. It is not clear why anyone sees or doesn't see them.

In one sense, nearly everything we see is an optical illusion. We think we see something, but we don't. We glimpse part of it and extract an explanation that may or may not be right. Optical illusions are a reminder to check everything carefully for what actually is there rather than what we assume is there.

I had an experience like this last week. We were meeting with a client whose service we assumed worked well. A marketing representative whom we had not met before told us that it isn't the case. The service has quality problems brought on by conditions in which it is deployed and used. It was a dispiriting meeting. It would have been far better had we talked to this individual first but for some reason we did not meet him when we first visited the company. The company had not hidden him from us, as far as I know. It assumed that we knew what the service was like. That was our illusion, and we should have known better.


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