“Everyone has filters to select information that receives attention.”

These excerpts were taken from Roger Fisher’s excellent book Getting It Done: How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge.

Everyone has filters to select information that receives attention. If we don’t consciously choose them we fall back on unconscious ones. Typically these default rules for selecting data limit the useful information we receive. Like a magician’s sleight of hand, they direct attention away from true action.

Do you think that what you know is more important than what you don’t?

We often equate the information we have with the information that should guide a decision. This creates two difficulties. First, we assume that what we don’t already know isn’t worth knowing. We stop looking for information when there may still be important things to learn. Secondly, we think that because we have a certain pierce of information, it should figure into the decision: “If it is true, it is relevant.” Years are spent fighting over what happened yesterday for every day that is spent figuring out what out to be done tomorrow.

Are you biased toward vivid data?

We all pay undue attention to a good story. Information that has an emotional impact gobbles up attention. Dry information is ignored. As you try to accomplish something you may find that the bankruptcy of one competitor holds your attention more than an improved product being marketed by another. At work no one has packaged important information to make it easy to take in.

Are you trapped in your own point of view?

Russians have a saying that “everyone looks at the world from the bell tower of his own village.” We all know that we tend to judge ourselves more charitably than we judge others. You notice your own contributions to a success more than those of others. You tend to minimize, even to yourself, the role you played in a failure. Because we focus on data that favor us or cast others in a bad light, we neglect large amounts of relevant information.