Monkey Business

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Today’s Tip is interactive. Click on the video below and follow the instructions.  If you’ve seen this before, watch it again (and don’t blurt out the answer).  And don’t read the rest of this Tip until you’ve finished watching.

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So how many of you missed the gorilla?  Statistics show that roughly 50% of people who watch this video for the first time don’t see it.

What does this have to do with risk?  The answer has to do with how we focus on the tasks before us.   Many of us pride ourselves on our ability to multitask.  Whether it’s talking on the phone while drafting a letter, or sitting in a meeting and reading emails on your iPhone, or reviewing an agreement while chopping vegetables, we like to think that we are being more productive than if we were just doing one of those things.  This experiment teaches us that people — even lawyer people — have a limited ability to focus on more than one thing at a time.   In fact, studies have shown that multitasking can actually reduce productivity and create mental blocks that can cause us to make mistakes and miss important information and cues. Multitaskers are also less likely to retain information in working memory, which can hinder problem solving.

Of course, some people multitask better than others.  And I harbor no illusions that this Tip will cause everyone to stop looking at their iPhones while sitting on a conference call.  But let me make one observation:  I’m not aware of any lawyers who were the subject of a claim or disciplined for giving his or her full attention to a client.

One more experiment:  See if you can spot the gorilla in this next clip: