The Ambient Shift

As we've learned, serendipity depends on being able to take notice of unusual occurrences—to “arrest the exceptions” when they happen, instead of letting them sail right by unnoticed. Our environments—the flow of physical movement, sight lines, acoustic dynamics, the appearance of light, aesthetics, ergonomics, and all the other components that make up our real-world experience—have a huge impact on what we are able to attune to. The ambient shift influences what and where we invest our attention.

A few years ago the Washington Post constructed an experiment that dramatically showed how reliant we are on our physical environment for cues to determine where we place our attention. It demonstrated how easy it is for us to miss ...

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