We see what we expect to see. It’s a well-documented psychological phenomenon. We have virtual blind spots that are created by our brains when something appears that is not expected. As business leaders, we become so passionately entrenched in our strategic vision that we can fail to see evolving trends.
James Kerr writes about Business Blind Spots at Management-Issues.com. He says:
The same type of blind spots can exist in business. Due to the Theory of Incongruency [blind spots and faulty thinking], many breakthrough ideas are ignored or dismissed because business leaders are unable to see the value of a new idea that doesn’t fit within their current expectations of what will work within their firm or industry.
Examples in recent business history abound:
- The demise of Blockbuster Video and the rise of Netflix
- The invention of quartz watch movement by the Swiss, and its adoption by Seiko Japanese companies
The Swiss watch makers dismissed their own invention because they considered the quality of the quartz design inferior to the traditional, mechanical way of doing things. Within 10 years, the Swiss watch maker’s market share fell from 65% to below 10%. Sadly, it is estimated that as many as 50,000 Swiss watch makers lost their jobs because of the blind spot.
I’ve written about how business leaders often make important decisions with blinders on and how to avoid making these big business errors. It’s not a lack of intelligence that causes business leaders to make the wrong decisions.
Herbert Simon, the Nobel economist, points out that most people are only partly rational, and they are emotional/irrational in the remaining part of their actions. But people aren’t aware they fall into this trap. We don’t acknowledge how much of our thinking is dominated by unconscious desires and emotions.
Which is why these faulty thinking errors are called business blind spots. The antidote?
- Get out of your insular routines
- Talk to people outside of your expertise
- Run ideas by other people who don’t have your same filters
- Ask questions and really listen to their answers
Continually ask your staff and team what questions should you be asking and what things you aren’t seeing. You may be best at seeing your visionary plans, but without people grounded in reality, without asking for contrary points of view, without talking to outsiders, you’ll be vulnerable to blind spots.
As important as it is to focus and keep moving forward, it’s just as important to know when to take a turn — and to see the turn coming.
What do you think? One of the best ways to avoid falling like Blockbuster is to get outside consulting help. Business growth expertise and an outside perspective like what we do here at Ariad Partners can you take the blinders off. Call me, let’s talk.