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What Didn’t You See Today?

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pylon of the month

Giant Metal Men Matter

Have you noticed the gigantic metal men standing in your neighborhood? One’s over there, just above the tree line. Enormous and sinister. Sort of hulking at around 100 ft. tall. What’s that–you’ve not noticed it? How could you miss it, standing there in the wide open? Your kids saw it and have already made up stories about it: why it’s there and how it could reach down and grab anybody at any moment so let’s not spend too much time beneath it.

Electrical pylons are just one of the things we miss as we walk or drive around our city. They only become visible when someone shows you. Then you see them. Your eyes probably registered the shape and presence, but somehow the tall tower did not enter your consciousness. You needed someone to point it out—not that you particularly care about pylons. Same with people: do we even notice the janitor cleaning the corridor at the airport or the clerk at the grocery store? We are trained to have these people blend into the background, just like the pylons. Just like the homeless guy at the stop light on Hennepin and Lyndale. It makes our life easier—less to deal with—when we don’t see these things or people.

How much we are missing when we tune out stuff we don’t want to deal with?

One of my clients is trying to help a particular set of physicians tune in to a class of patients that are largely unstudied. These patients present with certain features in their heart that routinely exclude them from pharmaceutical and other clinical trials. The conventional wisdom is that the outcomes would be significantly worse if these patients were included. So they aren’t. It’s a kind of research Catch-22.

My challenge this week is how to help these physicians see these patients. These patients cannot be treated until they are seen. Which is true for all the invisible stuff in our lives: we can’t deal with it as long as it is out of sight.

More on pylon appreciation: Alain de Botton from The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work.

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Written by kirkistan

March 2, 2011 at 8:37 am

One Response

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  1. Great insight, Kirk. It is far too easy to let things pass right through our personal “filters” without a second thought.

    As for janitors, I always try to smile and say hello when I pass them on my way to work. The world would be a much messier place without them.

    Ken Jr

    March 2, 2011 at 11:05 pm


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