Do you suffer from tired eyes?

November 1, 2003 By    

This story was told to me by a good friend who is now retired from the military. I am fascinated by the phenomenon he described, and I think that you’ll agree that it applies to our businesses.

A brigadier general noted for his tough inspections regularly toured a U.S. military base in Germany with a group of battalion commanders. As the general walked with the battalion commanders from camp to camp on these planned inspections, he would point out clearly visible violations, such as litter that had gone undetected or paint that was peeling off barracks. Amazed and embarrassed at his consistent ability to find items not detected during their preparations, the battalion commanders would rush to give orders to fix each violation.

The remarkable fact was that, even though the commanders knew when the general was arriving, and they conducted their own preparatory inspections to attempt to be perfect in his eyes, the general would regularly point out things that still needed correcting. How is it possible that the general, less familiar with the camps as the battalion commanders, could point out flaws unseen by those encountering the objectionable items daily?

The answer to this phenomenon has been identified and labeled as “Tired Eyes syndrome.” Let me explain.

When our eyes and other senses first encounter an object or a situation, we are equipped to make an immediate judgment. Through our senses we are quick to judge that which we encounter as satisfactory or unsatisfactory to us. We appreciate what we like, and would like to correct what don’t like.

For instance, a weed grown in a freshly mowed yard, or paint that is fading on our home that we love negatively catch our attention on the first encounter.

Tired Eyes syndrome begins on the second and subsequent encounters with the same object or situation. After the first encounter, a familiarity begins with the objectionable item that starts to replace our initial judgment of it. The tired eyes syndrome is the name given to our mind’s ability to accept on the second and subsequent observations as normal – and therefore acceptable – what we had first judged as unacceptable.

This explains why, when I travel, it is easy for me to see perfectly well the weeds that have grown up around an office or bulk plant on my first visit, but perfectly able to walk past the weeds healthily growing in my own yard.

This interesting phenomenon of how our minds and senses work explains why we may tolerate things around us in our regular daily line of vision that which we find unpleasant or offensive on our first encounter elsewhere. Our eyes have become tired after the clearly unpleasant first impression, and what was unpleasant and unacceptable, over repeated exposure, becomes normal and acceptable.

What does this have to do with our businesses? Quite a lot, if marketing is, indeed, everything.

My travels take me to many retail propane operations for the first time. I gather first impressions just like the other guy.

I can only assume, for example, that the ladder that is left beside an out building, with weeds growing through the legs, or the obvious and badly peeling paint on an office has become a victim of Tired Eyes syndrome by the management of the local company. How else can we explain that we have let our guards down to something that will clearly be judged by potential clients as unpleasant and unacceptable?

Does this mean that you will lose a client over these objectionable parts of our business that have fallen to Tired Eyes syndrome? Absolutely, especially if your customer values a clean and inviting environment. Don’t we naturally turn into the cleaner, more well-lit convenience store when our options are equal?

So, how do we avoid Tired Eyes syndrome?

Perhaps the first solution is to be aware that it is a common phenomenon.

The second solution is to have a policy to fix what is broken or out of place when first noted. I tend to believe that those companies that have impeccable appearances do not let any items of repair lay too long.

A third solution is to have a periodic inspection by a third party, who will be objective and will write down what they observe as objectionable. This requires a willingness on your part to look at your company’s warts and a commitment to make immediate corrections.

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