Wow, I didn’t know that!
Published: December 4, 2023

I don’t know about you but, every now and then, I come across something that stops me in my tracks – a real “wow” moment. I was introduced to the work of Hannah Critchlow, PhD and her book Joined-up thinking when I was listening to Start the Week on Uk media (link below). Among all of the great insights she shared, one thing really jumped out for me. At one point, Dr Critchlow was explaining how the brain processes information and shared this mind blowing stat: “something in the region of 11 billion bytes of data enter our senses every single second (but) we’re only consciously aware of something in the region of 30 to 40 bytes of of them”. Wow! Really?

Those of us who coach people are, to some degree or other, looking to help them manage/modify their behaviour in what we at Odyssey Learning & Development call Pivotal Situations. So, what are the implications of those numbers for us (and the people we’re coaching)? In our coaching work we already talk to people about how their brains work and that what they scan for in the world around them is very selective. We also explain that, if they’re to make changes to the way they turn up, they need to work hard to manage what they scan for and to be conscious of themselves and the way they are in those moments. But those numbers (11 billion v 30-40) really reinforce the scale of that challenge.

If we look at it from the point of view of behaviour change, what those numbers may be saying is something like this; if we want to change the way we participate in Teams meetings, for example, we may need to shift our conscious focus onto the 30-40 bytes of data related to participants’ facial expressions rather than focus that precious consciousness on just the data being shared?

I suppose that one of the key questions we might then ask our clients is; “Of all the things coming at you, what are you actually scanning for (seeing, hearing and feeling) in what we call pivotal situations?”. Another might be; “Why those few things rather than everything else?” And another might be; “What are you missing?”.

So, that’s where those numbers took me. I wonder where they’ve taken you.

Start the Week episode:

Think we could help you?

Great, let's talk!

Enter your details and a short description of how we can help, and we’ll be in touch to arrange an initial chat.