“WHO ARE YOU GOING TO BELIEVE? ME … OR YOUR LYIN’ EYES?” Richard Pryor 1976
Visual, or optical illusions show us that our minds tend to make assumptions about the world around us – and what we think we see is often not what is actually before our very eyes!
This phenomenon of seeing one thing while actually observing another, might help to explain why some in municipal governments may be susceptible to making faulty assumptions when it comes to arranging for quality recruiting. What they think they see is often not there!
The reality is that not every company that holds itself out to be a “recruiter” actually has staff who have the knowledge skills and ability to find Top Talent for you … and believe me, there are tons of pretenders! Those in the know recognize who these pretenders are! There are the “one-man bands” who give the impression that they have a large staff. There are the small community personnel agencies passing themselves off as authentic recruiters. And then, of course, there are plenty of retired CAOs who know little about where to find real talent, but have hung out their shingles! Illusionists all!
Aristotle noted that “our senses can be trusted but they can be easily fooled” and that was over 2300 years ago!
Below are three simple illusions that demonstrate just how readily any brain can be tricked.
Just like today’s “pretenders” in the search business, the Ebbinghaus Illusion, for example, reveals that our brains make judgments about size using adjacent objects. So it is with hiring a firm to find you Top Talent; size and capacity can be manipulated and deceiving. [The orange circles here are actually the same size!]
The Ponzo Illusion illustrates that context is also fundamental for depth perception. To put recruiting in context, if you imagine all recruiters are more or less the same – in terms of depth and ability – your perspective may off!
This illusion shows that identically sized lines can appear to be different lengths when placed between converging lines (do our minds imagine that the lines are parallel?), and shows how our sense of perspective works … or doesn’t work!
Or consider the Hermann Grid: we see gray dots where the white lines intersect, even though they are not actually there. I wonder how often some unsuspecting Mayor and Council has hired a company to help them find top talent because they saw something that wasn’t really there?
These observations help to clarify why municipal professionals can be fooled by companies that just can’t do what they say they can do.
Research into illusions points to one thing: our visual system remains too limited to tackle all of the information our eyes (and ears!) take in. “For that, our brain would need to be bigger than a building, and still then it wouldn’t be enough,” says researcher Martinez-Conde.
And so our minds take shortcuts. Municipalities may take shortcuts too, when they decide to do a search themselves or hire the cheapest so-called consultant, or put the search in the hands of some retired hack … they fool themselves into believing they are saving money. It’s like betting for the best horse in a race: the brain constantly chooses the most likely interpretation of what we see. Municipalities think they see a cheaper way or they see an easier way or they even see a way to do it themselves.
But … seeing (and hearing) should not always lead to believing!