Zombies, Slow, But Persistent

How Inattentional Blindness Leads to Zombiemats
Zombies, Slow, But Persistent
photo by Aedrian Salazar
Table of Contents
In: Self Service, Presentation

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Have you ever wondered why Brian Grell, the Zombiemat Hunter, can spot areas of improvement in your laundromat that you've missed? The answer lies in a psychological phenomenon known as Inattentional Blindness.

Inattentional Blindness, first observed by psychologists Arien Mack and Irvin Rock, is the inability to see new stimuli when we're already focused on something else. It's a form of sighted blindness that causes us to overlook big, obvious things that are hard to miss.

Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons conducted a well-known experiment on Inattentional Blindness. People watched a video of people passing a basketball back and forth and were asked to count the number of times the ball was passed. During the video, a woman dressed in a gorilla suit strolled through the people passing the basketball, turned to the camera, thumped her chest, and walked away. Over half of the people focused on counting the passes reported seeing "nothing unusual" and completely missed the gorilla.

This is not just confined to psychology labs; it's prevalent in our businesses every day. We tend to concentrate on things we deem as most important. This can lead to overlooking minor issues that can become major problems over time.

Consider these examples:

  • You notice some paint is peeling on the wall, but the coin machine light flashing "out of service" commands your attention.
  • Several washers are out of order, but the number of stickers on them, which are peeling slightly at the corners, seems insignificant.
  • The HVAC is acting up, and a light bulb is burnt out in one of the many ceiling lights.

In these examples, one issue commands your attention over the other. But if left unattended, these minor issues escalate. A small crack becomes a big crack. Chipped paint becomes a wall of peeling paint. One burnt-out light bulb leads to a dimly lit, dingy-looking store.

So, how can we help avoid Inattentional Blindness in our businesses?

  • Stop rushing. Take the time to observe and understand your business environment.
  • Avoid multitasking. Focus on one task at a time to ensure nothing slips through the cracks.
  • Embrace humility and forego arrogance. Acknowledge that you don't know everything and be open to learning.
  • Pursue different perspectives. Seek out diverse viewpoints to gain a more comprehensive understanding of your business.
  • Ask questions. Encourage a culture of curiosity and continuous learning.
  • Collaborate. Work with others to leverage their unique insights and experiences.
  • Delegate. Empower your team members to take ownership of tasks and projects.
  • Keep things simple. Complexity can lead to overlooking important details.
  • Schedule walk-throughs. Focus solely on finding and documenting things that can be improved or are wrong in the business.
  • Create a punch list.  Include things that need to be taken care of, both small and large, and delegate them if you do not have the time. Use a service like TaskRabbit or a local handyperson.

By being aware of Inattentional Blindness and taking steps to mitigate its effects, we can ensure that no aspect of our business is overlooked.

But let's take it a step further.

Every laundromat was once shiny and new, with machines humming and clients bustling. However, over time, minor issues, if ignored, can lead to a gradual decline. A low squeaky sound in a machine can lead to a breakdown. A slightly peeling paint job can turn into a shabby, uninviting environment. A burnt-out light bulb can lead to a dimly lit, unwelcoming space.

These seemingly minor issues can snowball into major problems, affecting client satisfaction and, ultimately, your bottom line. These issues are like zombies, slow-moving, persistent, and stronger in groups.

One burnt-out light bulb isn't as strong as 5 or 6, with 4 machines out of order, chipped paint, etc. (zombie group).

The key to preventing this decline is constant vigilance.

It's about paying attention to the small details while keeping an eye on the big picture. It's about addressing issues when they're small before they grow into major problems.

Remember, the success of our businesses depends not just on seeing the big picture but also on noticing the details that make up that picture. Sometimes, it's the smallest details that make the biggest difference.

That's all I got for today.

P.S. If you know of someone who could benefit from this, please share it.

Thinking about, the thinking of laundry

From the thoughts of the former professional mixed martial artist, Georges St-Pierre

When you pay attention to detail, the big picture will take care of itself.

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