Blind spots are ways that our mind becomes blocked from seeing reality as it is - blinding us from seeing the real truth about ourselves in relation to others. Once we form a conclusion, we become blind to alternatives, even if they are right in front of their eyes.
Emily Pronin, a social psychologist, along with colleagues Daniel Lin and Lee Ross, at Princeton University's Department of Psychology, created the term "blind spots." The bias blind spot is named after the visual blind spot.
There is a classic experiment that demonstrates one level of blind spots that can be attributed to awareness and focused-attention. When people are instructed to count how many passes the people in white shirts make on the basketball court, they often get the number of passes correct, but fail to see the person in the black bear suit walking right in front of their eyes. Hard to believe but true!
However, the story of blind spots gets more interesting when we factor in our cognitive biases that come from our social needs to look good in the eyes of others.
When people operate with blind spots, coupled with a strong ego, they often refuse to adjust their course even in the face of opposition from trusted advisors, or incontrovertible evidence to the contrary.
Two well-known examples of blind spots are Henry Ford and A&P:
The good news is that companies can recover from denial; even when they seem permanently wedded to their histories, their philosophies, or their belief systems. IBM, which had been caught up in its own "bureau-pathology," learned to conquer arrogance and overcome its history and culture, under the leadership of Louis Gerstner.
Intel, DuPont, and Coca-Cola, are more examples of corporations caught in denial traps when launching new products. They demonstrated that when corporate management has strong convictions, or worse yet, hubris about their points of view, they can become blind to their customer's needs - needs that are right in front of their very eyes.
Seeing the real truth is an art and a science. When we get the balance right between what we think is true and what is really true - we are managing our blind spots with integrity, and wisdom.
Fortunately, these well-known brands did not live in denial very long. It was only a passing phase, and they recovered from it by revisiting reality with an open mind. Blind spots explain why the "smartest people in the room" (as Enron's top executives were famously called) can sometimes be very dumb. They do not see the light - they are not open to changing their minds.
Denial and Blind spots are one of the primary reasons why Executive Coaching is so vital for leaders, and why peer coaching is equally important for employees to practice. Coaching can effectively uncover and deal with blind spots and denial and give the decision-makers a fresh perspective on how to handle executive challenges.
Coaching can also help individuals gain a broader and more 'realistic perspective' about situations and themselves. Executive, Team and Organizational Coaching can help leaders calibrate with the world around them, giving them reality checkpoints that position them to navigate the real world with wisdom and insight.
From time to time, we all need a wake-up call to be sure that we do not allow ourselves to confuse our denial maps with the actual territory.
Tip #1 - It Takes Thought to Learn
The brain does not always allow us to hear all the facts if they do not fit our prior understanding of a concept. To learn new facts, you must be actively open to accepting opposition.
Tip #2 - Effectively Working Together
Partners who were considered controlling were perceived as critical and rude, and their advice was generally rejected and not trusted. When the same partners showed appreciation, a feeling of rapport and trust developed, creating a deep 'WE-centric' bond.
Judith E. Glaser is the Author of two best selling business books: Creating WE: Change I-Thinking to We-Thinking & Build a Healthy Thriving Organization - winner of the Bronze Award in the Leadership Category of the 2008 Axiom Business Book Awards, and The DNA of Leadership.
You tell yourself that you "really need to" do something to turn your situation around, and are baffled why you don't. Each day you do the same things and sink deeper into your stressful situation and personal misery.
The first step to taking action is knowing what your block is. One way you can start to get clarity is to set aside time to do the project that you know you've been needing to do. Write it into your calendar, protect the time, and have serious intent to carry it through. When it comes time to do it, notice what images come to your mind. You will have a mental picture that will reveal your block.
Read on so you can 'listen in over my shoulder' as I give you examples from the Strategy Sessions this week on how others got unblocked and started taking action.
1) A salesperson knew he needed to make more phone calls but couldn't even though he was close to being fired. When he imagined picking up the phone to call prospects, he expected a response of no interest because he had heard that so many times before.
His block was that he expected his efforts wouldn't work. So we wrote out a whole new script giving a valuable free benefit to the prospect right up front and compelling the prospect to schedule a follow up meeting. The next morning the salesman used the approach and made a hefty sale.
2) A middle manager at a big state agency needed to finish a high-visibility audit, but he couldn't get started. His blocks were self-doubt and self-centered thinking. He was worried that the final deliverable would be judged unfavorably and that the recommendations of the audit would be politically unpopular. We changed his focus so he saw the audit as an opportunity to clean up corruption in state agencies, help millions of state consumers get better rates, and protect the environment. He stopped making the project about what others would think about him and started making it about what he could contribute. He was immediately motivated to get started.
3) A woman investment banker wants work life balance but keeps staying late at the office. She knows she's not happy but didn't know what would make her happy. Her block was not knowing.
We identified that her priority is a successful relationship that leads to marriage. But she didn't know what her passions were; she didn't know how to meet high caliber men, and she didn't know how to have a successful courtship. So we started with an exercise that reconnected her with her longtime passion for education, which led to a smile! Then we made a plan to start getting on Boards of organizations in the educational reform field where lots of male investment bankers serve. She was ready to rock n' roll!
Tip: The first step to taking action is to know what is getting in the way of you doing what you know you should be doing.
Schedule a good block of time to do what you know you need to do on your calendar and then see what mental picture comes to your mind. That will give you a clue what your block is.