The Dangers of Blind Spots

We know blind spots are dangerous when changing lanes at 60 MPH on the highway.

— Meredith Haberfeld

When you’ve got a blind spot killing your company culture, it can be just as damaging in its own right. No one is immune to blind spots. Organizations, and the people who lead them, are particularly vulnerable.

Let’s not kid ourselves. We can see them in others, but we all have blind spots of our own: unproductive ways of thinking and behaviors that are obvious to others but invisible to ourselves. But the consequences are all too real: Blind spots influence decision-making, reduce our spectrum of awareness, create adversaries and silos, limit careers and sabotage results.
Take an obvious example: Dov Charney is, to put it mildly, a problem for American Apparel. Until a year ago American Apparel’s senior leadership team and board of directors were seemingly blind to a raging issue that was so apparent to everyone else. The signs of trouble seem impossible to ignore; starting as far back as 2004, with a damaging profile showcasing Charney’s bizarre, vulgar attitude and habits. The disturbing reports kept coming in, from outside American Apparel’s walls and within. Yet, the board and leadership remained blind, again and again, for the next 10 years.
That’s the nature of a blind spot: Everyone can see it—except those who need to see it the most. Warren Buffet explained the phenomenon thusly: “What the human being is best at doing is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact.”
Your company probably doesn’t have a whopping, Dov-Charney-sized blind spot lurking just beyond the rear-view mirror (hopefully). But how do you know you’ve got a blind spot worth dealing with on your hands? (Psst: you probably do.)
The tip-off is issues that don’t go away.
With persistent issues, default tactical fixes and transactional problem solving don’t cut it, because they’re built on a fundamental framework of thinking that’s out of sync with the resolution of the issue itself. Try as we might – our solutions fail and problems persist – as we stay “blind” to the root causes, and think “it’s them, not me”.