Circle and Dot Training: Enlarging Your Awareness Capacity

A “dot” is a person/employee with a very limited awareness capacity.

A “circle” is a person/employee who is fully aware of his or her working environment, and covers more ground within their scope of awareness.

During a road trip to Los Angeles I witnessed a “dot” in action. I stopped at a nationally known coffee house for a cup of joe. Instead of going through the drive-thru I decided to stretch out my legs a little, so I went inside. As I walked across the parking lot I noticed an employee sitting outside perhaps on his fifteen-minute break. Next to him I noticed two garbage cans filled beyond capacity, overflowing with garbage. The area around him was littered with trash. It was so bad I had to step around, and over some of the garbage to get into the store. I almost said something to the young man about the litter around him but I kept it to myself, only to see what he would do. I wanted to see what type of employee he was; a dot or circle. Was he really aware of his surroundings. After I purchased my drink I sat down keeping a watchful eye to see how he would respond to his environment. After his break he got up, and went behind the counter to assist the customers waiting in line, which is commendable and perhaps company protocol, which probably states something like, “After your break you must go back to work.” On my way out the door I made a comment about the garbage overflowing outside and continued on my journey. My point about this story is simple; the employee was totally unaware to the garbage scattered all around him or was he? I thought to myself, “Now there’s a dot!” Someone who does only what is required in his job description, instead of going above and beyond the call of duty.

A Bourne Example

A great example of a circle is found in the movie Bourne Identity starring actor Matt Damon, who plays CIA Agent Jason Bourne. Jason Bourne is very much aware of his surroundings since he was trained to “think and act” like a circle during his initial training as a CIA agent. There is a part in this movie where he is sitting in a restaurant with his gypsy female counterpart trying to make sense of his life, after a lapse of memory during a secret mission. At the restaurant he is somewhat confused and does not seem to remember who he is at the moment, somehow he is extremely aware of his surroundings. For some reason he seemed to know:

  • The license numbers of all six cars parked outside the café.

  • The waitress is left handed.

  • The guy sitting at the counter weighs 215 lbs. and knows how to handle himself.

  • The a gun may exist in the cab of the grey truck parked car outside the restaurant.

  • And, that he could run for so many miles in the high, cold altitude before his hands started to shake.

At the moment Bourne seems confused and doesn’t seem to know why he knows these things. What he does not know at the moment is the training he received as a CIA agent made it possible for him to possess such extraordinary awareness. In sum, he is operating like a circle – he is aware of many details in his environment that the common person would not know or care about knowing.

Engage, Experience and Expand Your Awareness

I first learned to think like a circle in a part time job that I held during my college years as a Loss Prevention Agent for a large merchandise chain. This occurred before retail stores installed the cameras you see in many stores today. In this job I learned to develop and use my skills of observation, intuition and follow-through. During my training I learned to read my environment, enlarge my scope of vision and look for certain traits of a typical shoplifter. Over time I gained more experience by discerning with a high level of accuracy a shoplifter’s shopping patterns and behavioral profile. I learned “the way of a circle” and how to expand my awareness zones. I got so good at detecting shoplifters I soon started to locate professional shoplifters. These professional shoplifters were really crafty. They are swift and make themselves undetectable by dressing, acting and blending in as clean cut citizens. They think and act very much like a circle themselves. This is why they get away with so much merchandise because they take the time to study and observe their environment. They will often come in to scope out an area of the store and buy something at a low price. During this time they are checking out the weak areas of the system by examining employee working patterns, mainly those employees who think and act like dots. After the experienced shoplifter has scoped out the land he or she will return within a few days. When they return they know exactly what they want ahead of time (they are not impulse shoplifters). They have a plan and execute it very well, right up until they meet someone who thinks more like a circle.

Many years after working in Loss Prevention I was at a nationally recognized bookstore sipping on some coffee and enjoying a conversation with my friends. As we sat at the coffee shop I noticed a young man at the magazine rack. He looked suspicious so I kept a watchful eye on him without alerting any of my friends. All of the sudden he turned his back toward the coffee shop where I was sitting. He looked around to see if anyone was watching, and stuffed a magazine down the front of his pants and covered the merchandise over with his shirt. Since he was already near the exit door it took just a few steps and he was out the door. I told my friends what just took place, and asked one of them to accompany me outside. Once outside I called out to the young man and asked him to give me the magazine that he had hidden underneath his shirt and pants. At first he denied it but when I told him that I was just interested in retrieving the magazine he relented, and took the concealed item in his clothing and handed it to me. As an experienced Loss Prevention Agent I was trained to look beyond my immediate surroundings to the larger area around me (circle thinking). I was trained to think and act like a circle, therefore, I became one.

What will it take for you to grow your awareness in the workplace? Can you sense things in your environment before anyone else does? What do you do with this information?

Are you a “dot” or a “circle”?


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