Blind Spots

Most professionals rely upon a combination of formal education and experiential life lessons to guide their decision-making and professional behaviors. Reliable formulas for past successes seduce business professionals into believing future success is guaranteed. What if a fundamental professional truth turned out to be wrong and created a blind spot that revealed itself through poor decision-making? What if a leadership team is unaware of their blind spots? Contemplate Sears, once the world’s largest retailer and a cutting edge innovator, now floundering. Today’s marketplaces and workplaces are changing dramatically, and blind spots must be overcome for organizations to successfully manage these challenges.

Three recent publications illustrate the benefits of questioning comfortable beliefs and default practices that don’t serve employers well and instead become blind spots.

“Neurodiversity as a Competitive Advantage” (Harvard Business Review, May 2017) describes how some major employers are identifying new sources of innovative talent in people on the autism spectrum. They often possess strong skills needed by these employers, yet were typically screened out by standard evaluation methods that valued qualities such as maintaining eye contact and affable communication skills (e.g., clever small talk). By re-tooling candidate evaluation practices, “neurologically different” people are no longer screened out because they don’t meet the previously held norms of a desirable candidate. In a tight labor market, age-old recruiting processes and expectations of applicants unnecessarily constrained the talent pool and had to change.

“High-Impact Diversity and Inclusion: Maturity Model and Top Findings,” a research paper from Deloitte, “reveals that organizations with inclusive cultures are six times more likely to be innovative, six times more likely to anticipate change and respond effectively, and twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets.” Fervently clinging to past practices may foster bias and drive decision-making that lacks vision; in turn, this creates a workplace culture that lacks inclusivity, innovation, and long-term success. Leaders who tackle the blind spots of well-worn business practices are more likely to foster an inclusive, effective workplace; such efforts have a high ROI.

Mentoring is based on the presumption that a young employee lacks the life lessons and know-how of a more experienced and older employee. With the digital revolution, this model is not so reliable. Millennials are more likely to understand the realities of this new era. Reverse mentoring is an innovative approach to help leaders identify and eliminate their digital economy blind spots (HR Magazine, May 2017). Early-career Millennials mentor C-Suite leaders to help them develop a broader understanding of emerging market conditions, customer preferences and expectations, as well as potential competitors and threats. Employers benefit from this exchange as current leaders become better informed, and Millennial mentors develop leadership skills. This role-reversal sends a powerful message: everyone must keep up with the times.

  • Key takeaways to overcome blind spots:
  • Make it safe to question practices and decisions.
  • Seek alternative and opposing viewpoints.
  • Identify core factors that drive decision-making and evaluate their legitimacy.
  • Search for new information and accurate data to inform decision-making.

Don’t completely abandon the business acumen developed over the years in the workplace trenches, but do not rest upon those laurels—they can become blind spots.

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