Beware of Awareness Tests That Fail


A creative person looks at the same thing that everyone is looking at from a different perspective. He or she can ‘notice and observe’ better than others. This is where ‘awareness’ comes into the picture. If you are more ‘aware’ of what’s happening around you, you have a better chance of noticing and observing what others are NOT noticing and observing.

At the same time, being ‘more aware’ is not an excuse for losing focus. Focus is equally important if you want to get things done.

This is precisely the reason I cringe when I look at some of the ‘awareness tests’ that are used by some ‘creativity gurus’ to highlight a point.

The example of one such awareness test will be something like this: The ‘creative guru’ will ask the audience to spend a minute focusing on all the “green objects” in the room. After that one minute, the ‘guru’ will ask the audience members to close their eyes and recollect all the “yellow objects” in the room. You fail in this ‘awareness test’ if you can’t recollect ‘N’ number of yellow objects.

The point is that if you do recollect ‘N’ number of yellow objects, you win in the “awareness test” but you probably failed in the ‘focus test.’

You can’t have one (awareness) at the expense of the other (focus.)

There is a famous video that has made the rounds on YouTube that will demonstrate this awareness test.

The summary of the video is “It is easy to miss something that you are not looking for” and I agree. It has nothing to do with awareness. When you specifically ask someone to look for something, you are forcing the person to focus. Asking a question outside of that “focus area” is moot.

Not all creativity tests are equal. Just because something is popular does not mean that it is logical.

About the Author: Raj Setty is intimately involved in working with like-minded entrepreneurs to bring good ideas to life and spread their adoption. You can learn more about him at or follow his blog at Life Beyond Code or on Twitter at @UpbeatNow

How to get creative work done in an "always on" world

Productivity for Creative People

Mark McGuinness' latest book Productivity for Creative People is a is a collection of insights, tips, and techniques to help you carve out time for your most important work – amid the demands and distractions of 21st century life.

β€œOf all the writers I know, I have learned the most about how to be a productive creative person from Mark. His tips are always realistic, accessible, and sticky. It’s not just talk, this is productivity advice that will change your life.”

Jocelyn Glei, author and Founding Editor, 99U

More about Productivity for Creative People. >>

Responses to this Post


  1. In relationship to creativity, I’d say that if everyone is focused on the same thing in your field, try focusing on ANYTHING different, and people will call you creative.

  2. Duff, Thanks for the note. I agree. Adding to that, you can be creative AND effective if you focus on ANYTHING different at the same time bringing higher value to the marketplace.

    One other way you can be creative is by employing “knowledge arbitrage” – take what works in one field and apply it to another.

    A few examples:
    1. Bag Borrow or Steal ( is Netflix for luxury handbags


    2. Chegg ( is Nextflix for textbooks.

    Thanks again.


  3. Couldn’t agree more; what a fun video =) Although I did notice the bear, but didn’t know it was a bear, though it was some homeless person or something… *shrugs*

  4. Thank you Andy. I think calling the person a “bear” was bit of a stretch πŸ™‚

    On a separate note, I love the photos on your website. Cool.


  5. replying