The Black Dot Story

I can’t even remember much about the course. But, I can remember the following scene like yesterday! Our professor announced that we would be participating in an exam. He went around and placed a single sheet of paper face down in front of every student. Needless to say, this created intense anxiety as no one was expecting a mid-term exam.


When the professor told everyone to turn over the exam, students were shell shocked. There were no questions. To have a photo of me and the other student’s faces would have been “priceless” Here’s all we found …

What would you write about the image above if given an hour?

The professor’s instructions were amazingly simple: “I want you to write about what you see.”


As you can imagine, graduate students were dumbfounded and confused! Almost all pressed for a clarification. What were the parameters? Was this a test of our ability to apply the course readings to this exercise? How would we be graded?


The professor simply sat and smiled offering no further explanation other than we would have an hour to write down what we see. I cannot begin to describe how long that hour lasted! And, no one dared to turn in anything before the hour was up.


To the horror of the students in class, the professor collected all of the “exams” and began reading them … out loud to everyone! There were some major theoretical arguments postulated, a lot of rationales and a few funny punchlines. Needless to say, there were a lot of adult graduate students squirming in the seats wondering where this was all going.


After reading all of the musings, the professor made these sage observations:

  • Everyone focused on the black dot
  • People obsessed about the size and location of this dot
  • No one wrote about the white space that is the rest of the paper
  • We are all given a blank sheet in life, yet we always focus on the dark spot(s)
  • Dark spots are very small compared to all of the potential blank space available


I recall now that this course was title something like: “Psychology of Perception and Problem Solving”. I forgot the class and the readings, but I have never forgot the experience and learnings of The Black Dot exercise.


Source: http://www.imsresultscount.com/resultscount/2015/08/the-black-dot-an-eye-opening-story-for-business-and-our-life.html


Be mindful, it’s worth it!

Dr. Patsy Tremayne