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9.1.2. Sensing: The Zoom Lens


How To Invent (Almost) Anything > 9. Managing in a Complex World > 9.1. Sensing > 9.1.2. Sensing: The Zoom Lens

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Try this: look at something. Take a page in this book and look at it. Can you read all of the words? As your attention goes from the page to words, you can actually only see a few words at a time. The same effect happens in a conversation when several people are talking at the same time and it is difficult to hear what everyone is saying.

Our attention is like a beam of light that we shine on the world around us, and like a trick torch, we can zoom our attention into detail or out to a more general view. Can you pronounce ‘llongyfarchiadau’ (which is Welsh for ‘congratulations’)? As you focus in on the word, notice how all other words, and even other parts of the same word, effectively disappear from your zone of attention. You can go even further, zooming in to a letter or even into a part of a letter. You can focus in your attention using any of your senses, listening more carefully or savouring the taste of a gourmet meal.

Martial artists surrounded by opponents use the reverse effect of zooming in as they spread their attention wide, not looking at anything, but being aware of the slightest movement around them. Bruce Lee said, ‘Observe what is, with undivided awareness.’

Fig. 9.2 Attention zoom

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