The Art of Discovering and Overcoming Your Blindspots
Blindspots are an invisible threat lurking in your business right now, and I want you to crush ’em before they crush you!
But first, what is a blindspot? Let’s look at Kodak–a great example of how blindspots can impact even seemingly unsinkable ships.
Kodak, the once-dominant player in the photography industry, faced a significant leadership blindspot as digital photography emerged in the mid-2000s. CEO Antonio Perez recognized the potential of digital technology but remained deeply attached to Kodak’s traditional film business, which had been the company’s primary revenue source for decades.
As the digital revolution gained momentum, Kodak’s market share began to shrink, and competitors like Canon, Nikon, and Sony swiftly adapted to the new market demands. Unfortunately, Kodak’s leadership failed to act decisively and clung to the hope that their film business would rebound, even as they slowly attempted to shift their focus towards digital technology.
It was too late when Kodak’s leadership fully embraced digital technology. They had lost their competitive advantage, and their once-loyal customers had moved on to other brands. In January 2012, Kodak filed for bankruptcy protection, marking the end of an era for the iconic company and serving as a cautionary tale for leaders who fail to adapt to changing market conditions and technological advancements.
Blindspots are areas where you lack knowledge or perspective in your decision-making and leadership. They can wreak havoc on your business, leading to terrible decisions and missed opportunities.
So, step one, accept that you have ’em – we all do!
Think you are too smart to have biases?
The truth is that the smarter you are, the more likely you are to have biases and blindspots show up in your critical thinking.
In Annie Duke’s book Thinking in Bets, she describes how we think we process information vs how we actually process it.
This is how we think we form abstract beliefs:
(1) We hear something;
(2) We think about it and vet it, determining whether it is true or false; only after that
(3) We form our belief.
It turns out, though, that we actually form abstract beliefs this way:
(1) We hear something;
(2) We believe it to be true;
(3) Only sometimes, later, if we have the time or the inclination, we think about it and vet it, determining whether it is, in fact, true or false.
This is because “the smarter you are, the better you are at constructing a narrative that supports your beliefs, rationalizing and framing the data to fit your argument or point of view.”
You need people who won’t hesitate to call you out when you’re slipping. Your role as a leader is to encourage your team to challenge your decisions and reasoning and make sure they know it’s okay to disagree with you. They’ll help you identify those blindspots you didn’t even know you had.
You need this as a leader. It will help you make more informed decisions and better understand the impacts your decisions have on your team and customers.
Action Item: Establish an open, honest feedback culture within your organization by setting up regular check-ins and actively soliciting feedback on your decisions. One tactic we started at Workweek is Feedback Friday.
Here is how it works:
We meet individually with our direct reports every other week. This conversation is entirely focused on encouraging staff to tell us what is going well and what needs improvement. As a leader, you should challenge your team to think critically about what is not working before the meeting. Be sure they understand the meeting is a place where they should feel comfortable bringing up problems even if they don’t have solutions or feel like change is needed urgently.
You need people around you who help you see what you aren’t.
One more action Item: Write down at least three situations where you think blind spots or biases have impacted your decisions. This will help you identify patterns and become more aware.