Change Blindness: the cost of focus

Solving a problem requires focus. Nobody is doubting that. We need to focus on the problem. We need to focus on the solution. When using the 5 Steps, we need to focus also on possible solutions and their implications. Focus, focus and focus. But what is it that we are missing when we focus. The act of focusing means we discard what is not important and keep and eye on what matters to us. Information that we are not focusing on is ignored.
But what is the cost of focus? One of the assumptions that we unconsciously make when focusing is that what we are focusing on does not change. Everything remain still as we zoom in. We also assume that what we are not focusing on does not change also. It is like when focus on an picture. Unfortunately, unless you are dealing with a picture, most things change as we are working. Focusing our vision is a very fast process. That is why it seems as nothing has changed. But when we focus something else, like our thoughts, things at the beginning may not be the same when we stop focusing on them. At the end of focusing, we do not expect changes to happen. Our fixation can be so strong that we are not surprised at things that changed because we didn't notice them in the first place. When we focus too much, we miss change.
There is a famous example to demonstrate this phenomena. It involves a guy in a gorilla suit. This phenomena even has a name, "The Invisible Gorilla Effect". It is the subject of the book of the same name. Check out these videos from the book's site that demonstrate the effect. Participate in the experiments. How surprised were you at the results? In short, about half of us are prone to this effect. If you think about the amount of things we focus on every day, about half of the time we would miss something that changes as we are focusing on it. This article goes into more details on the phenomena.
There are several strategies to combat this. One is through variation. Having more than one person looking at something gives it more attention. The other person would notice changes that one person would miss. Exchanging information afterwards would also result in more changes being noticed or at least hinted at.
Another way to deal with this phenomena is to break our focus. Decide to stop focusing after doing it for some time. Be wary of too much focus. Stop thinking about it and reset our focus. A bit of time may be needed to make us forget the details. The amount of time needed depends on our memory and our ability to discard the past experience or memory. When we come back and look at it again, it's a clear and fresh outlook. Sleep is a good solution. A nap relaxes the brain and you wake up with a fresh perspective. I re-edit my posts after some time because I re-read, after a while, what I write and catch my mistakes.

If there is not enough time, use change to reset your brain. Try looking at what we are focusing on from another perspective. If we are focusing on something that has an order, reverse it. If looking at a diagram, turn it upside down. Make enough changes to your perception that it becomes something new. Adding a small distraction may help. Not so much that we lose focus but just enough to make think about it from time to time. Think about it, why do we turn the radio on when we work or drive?
Why this happens is because of something called "working memory capacity". The details of this can be found in this article. Simply put, there is a limited amount of memory available when we focus on something. What we are focusing on can use up all that memory, making everything else imperceptible. In some cases, we may even think that things were there when in fact, they were not. Our brain can fool us by filling in the gaps with what normally would happen or what logically should be there. Try out the videos above and be surprised.