A Longer Note: On Blindspots
To explain the first type of blindspot, it’s time for a little quiz. I’m going to ask you a question and I want you to answer honestly and without googling it.
What does the URL abbreviation ‘.tv’ stand for? (As is used in the multi-billion dollar web-streaming giant ‘twitch.tv’, along with many other video centred websites).
Did you guess ‘Television’?
Of course you did – because television has been abbreviated to ‘tv’ for as long as it has been in our living rooms.
But here’s the thing… if you guessed ‘Television’ – then you’d be wrong.
And that’s because in 1995, the ‘.tv’ top-level domain was assigned as the country code for Tuvalu, a nation of small coral and reef islands located halfway between Australia and Hawaii. Its total population runs at about 11,000 people, and licensing the ‘.tv’ domain to large web-streaming giants now accounts for almost 10% of its gross national income. For a country that relies on imported goods just to feed its population – this is a welcome revenue stream that would have been impossible to predict 25 years ago.
While that’s a pretty cool little tidbit of info, the question I asked you was almost impossible to guess correctly simply because the correct answer is so far out of context.
It’s an example of Occam’s razor leading your intuition astray, placing you firmly in the camp of ‘you didn’t know what you didn’t know’ – except that you probably thought that you did know!
Which is a particularly frustrating kind of mental blindspot: A false-positive position.
Unlike other assumptions that you may make while planning or delivering a project, a false-positive blindspot sits hiding in plain sight. You think you’re correct, but you’re not.
The best way I’ve found to counter this blindspot is by expanding who I talk to and take advice from. The broader the group, the more likely I’ll have conflicting information – and it’s that conflicting information that illuminates potential false-positives.
Are you getting advice from a wide range of sources?
But here’s the issue.
Whenever I try to apply this same thinking to my own business, I hit mental dead ends.
I’m just too close to it. It’s a proximity blindspot.
I’ve seen it at play with clients too.
Executive teams that think that the entire organisation is completely clear on the value of their upcoming transformation – only to be surprised when their staff raise concern over the lack of communication on what’s happening and why. It’s not malevolence – it’s proximity. These executives understand the value of the transformation so completely that they simply forget that others don’t.
I’ve also seen it play out with team managers too. They feel that their team is running at high confidence and momentum – and are then surprised when their team unanimously assesses themselves as ‘fearful’ on one of my momentum polls. Again it’s not a matter of malevolence or even naïve optimism – it’s proximity blindness at play.
Interestingly, the counter to this one is the same as the first. Expand who you’re talking to and taking advice from. This is where the value of an outsider really comes into play.
Do you regularly seek advice from sources outside of your core teams?
And A Quick Note: On Blindspots
The best way to find out what you don’t know is to surround yourself with people who might.