How often do we miss what is right in front of us? As entrepreneurs, it is important to realize that this happens more often than we know. The more focused we are on one detail, the more likely we are to miss others, even if they are hiding in plain sight.

For example, in the picture of lungs below, take a look and see if you can locate any potential tumors (they look like large white circles):

You’re probably not a doctor so you wouldn’t know what a tumor looks like, but a doctor would immediately start scanning for them. This intense focus on a specific problem is what lead 83% of radiologists to miss seeing that gorilla in the top right corner of the image. How crazy is that?

Even becoming aware of this type of fault, doesn’t make it easier to avoid. Try to count the number of times the guys in white pass the basketball to each other in this video. I bet you won’t be able to get the number correctly.

Did you count the the correct number, yet miss the freaking gorilla walking through? Don’t feel bad if you did, 50% of people miss it. When your brain focuses on a challenging task, your attention narrows and blocks out other things, sometimes this means missing a giant, hairy gorilla. This effect is called inattentional blindness and typically happens when we are overloaded with stimuli. What was really learned in this study is that, even though you may be looking in the right area for something, what you focus on is what you see.

What does this mean for us entrepreneurs? It means that we need to make sure we are focusing on the right problems, and that we are paying attention to what is going on around our markets and customers, not just directly on them. If we focus very narrowly, we will miss what seems very obvious to an outside observer without such a focus.

Keep this in mind as you work on your company because it is very easy to get caught up being focused on the problem you are solving. If you don’t look around once in a while, you might just miss the “gorilla” hiding in plain sight.