Onlife Manifesto

Societies protect, cherish and nurture humans’ attentional capabilities.

More collective attention should be paid to attention itself.


Every business knows they must manage against “objective blindness.” This is where your people pursue an objective with tunnel vision which makes everything subservient to the pursuit, & attainment, of an objective. And, while many businesses ignore this greater responsibility by thinking revenue & profit is the only measure of success, all businesses recognize the need to set the parameters on the pursuit of an objective and setting some guidelines for HOW the pursuers actually pursue the objective. In other words, a business recognizes that in some form or fashion it is not only responsible for an objective, but also “how everyone plays the game”.


Recognition and actually doing something about it are two different things.

While business is quite aware of objective blindness (they may couch it in ‘values, ethics & how we do things’), that’s why they also have HR depts and legal departments. Those departments permit leadership to blind themselves to everything but the pursuit of objectives convincing themselves that these departments permit people to share concerns about misguided pursuits and have people protect the ‘objective pursuers’. These departments are purposefully set up so people can step OUT of chain of command because they:

(a) do not know who is actually supporting misguided pursuit within the command (i.e., it could be their boss or someone who could make their life miserable), &

(b) if your sense, in looking around, that everyone above in the regular channel has objective blindness & are acting with this misguided tunnel vision you can’t follow chain of command.

I will note that organizational objective blindness runs rampant in bureaucratic organizations where multiple people, with relatively good intent, never see the entire picture. An objective pursuer, and people in general, only hold one piece of the puzzle and assume everyone else is doing what they need to do.

But I will also note this is all bullshit.

In any organization that is set up this way there are a variety of power dynamics which make:

      1. The HR department power asymmetrical to the objectives themselves. They may be able to address some relational dynamics but anything truly pursuant to the pursuit of the objective has to be shifted over to the legal people.

      2. The legal department useless with regard to objective blindness. This is where I use Mike Walsh. “Your legal team will never get you to the best ethical decision.”

In other words, while having the responsibility to not be objective blind, these two departments are possibly the two least likely to do anything about objective blindness. The HR department isn’t really sure what exactly is “cricket” (or Hoyle’s rules in all games) and the Legal department has one function – can I actually defend the action/behavior, not, is it the right thing to do.

This is where I state that in a traditional organization (not a distributed decision-making organization) this is why leaders carry the burden of responsibility. IT IS THEIR JOB to set up the rules of how the game is played, parameters of the objective & to ensure objective blindness does not lead to improper decisions and behavior. It is their job to argue with Legal upfront on what may be technically legal and what is not ‘legal’ to the culture. It is their job to get HR in sync with how the game is played and be empowered to actually call ‘foul’ when applicable.

When they fail this responsibility, or worse, they suggest achieving the objective by any means is acceptable, they fail not only their organization they actually fail society because achieving an objective should not cost anyone integrity or dignity. Period.

“A person is a point in the social process rather than a unit in that process. A person is at the same time a social factor and a social product.”

Mary Parker Follett

Objective blindness overlooks the main objective – insuring people’s character and dignity is not sacrificed in the making of business.


While I have focused in poor leadership with regard to objective blindness until now. At this point I will discuss people and the challenges of just being a person.

Objective blindness actually can occur out of sheer (perceived) survival. What I mean by that is there are only 24 hours in a day, no one wants to work 24/7, not only does the task list ever seem to get shorter, but the list of things trying to get your attention is always getting longer.

There is gobs of research suggesting people, themselves, feel like being immersed in technology is costing people their ability to focus and a feeling they are losing control over their attention. It’s just an overall sense of “too much to (cognitively) handle.  I could bring to bear some research to compete against this feeling, but I will not. The feeling is too pervasive to ignore. This is one of the few times where perception is close enough to reality to actually do something about it.

So. True or not there is a battle going on over our attention (although I would argue that this battle is eternal and has been going on since the dawn of time). Anyway. I would argue the larger issue is not cognitive, but rather a lack of anchoring. What I mean by that is something I wrote years ago in something I called “we are all nomads now.” Attention, or control, is almost always balanced out by some stability or ‘safe place.’ That safe place doesn’t have to be mental but suffice it to say we need, mentally or physically, a safe space or safe time or safe stability in which we feel we have control. It is the deprivation of that safe space, the lack of an anchor, from which I believe our larger feeling of lack of attention and ability to focus arises from. I am not arguing that technology and the internet permits a 24/7 stimulus mechanism, if we permit it, but Life, in general, is and always has been a 24/7 stimulus machinery. If you accept that generalization, then you need to seek another variable from which this feeling arises. Therein lies my premise, an environmental shift in which something as small as the smartphone has disconnected us from some of the stability from which we sense, or have an ability to anchor, clarity and focus.

I cannot lay the entire blame on the smartphone or even technology, but they have certainly created a new environment in which lack of attention and lack of focus thrive.

I say all of this to suggest objective blindness is a compilation of issues.

I say all of this to say “it doesn’t matter.”

Set aside the excuses, objective blindness is a purposeful choice by every individual who falls prey to it. Objective blindness is a purposeful choice by every business. Objective blindness, once you have some experience, is a choice. It is an excuse to get shit done, win at any cost or simply any inexcusable behavior anyone wants to attach to ‘meeting the objective.’ It is a safe haven of excuses in a business world which will forgive anyone and anything if they are pursuing “the objective.”

Maybe that is my point about objective blindness. Objectives are safe havens for a lot of inexcusable behavior. If you become blind to the objective, you become blind to the behavior. So, make a choice. Don’t be objectionably blind.

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Written by Bruce