“Blind Side”, the film is based on the true story of Michael Oher, now with the Baltimore Ravens, who earlier in his life befriended the mother of a friend from school, played by Oscar winner Sandra Bullock . Another plays offensive tackle for his school team and does a really impressive job protecting the blind side of his quarterback.
There is another type of blind side that deserves our attention: “blind sides” that are responsible for the disappearance of leaders and their institutions, families and friends, communities and economies, as blind sides that contributed to the last recession, the worst in decades. It is quite scary to hear people like Alan Greenspan, past and current secretaries to our treasury, and directors of global banks, certainly very intelligent people in many respects, admit that they were blind to the forces at play that triggered the collapse. of the financial and real estate markets around the world and that nearly brought down our economy. There are other types of blind sides that also get us in trouble: blindness to our own or our organization’s strengths or vulnerabilities, to the contributions or limitations of others, to the impact of our behavior or decisions on others, to “bad news.” or our inability to hear it, and a myriad of other realities that impact our lives and organizations without being aware of them.
We’ve heard a lot about the merits of “authentic” leaders, organizations, experiences, and people. Authenticity means being real, and an important part of that is that leaders, organizations, experiences, and people are actually what they say or present themselves. Yet another important part of being real is the ability to face and articulate reality – something that is seemingly in short supply as CEOs, investment bankers, and government officials overlooked or ignored the warning signs of market collapse. leading to 2008. there; Michael Lewis’s new book, The Big Short *, chronicles the work of Michael Burry, an investor who read the signs correctly. Mr. Burry carefully read all real estate investment descriptions mixed with legal language and strange acronyms; He paid attention to the increasing ease for homeowners to acquire credit, and in 2005 noted that credit standards had bottomed out. Adding it all up, Burry bet millions of dollars in securities would lose money “shorting” them; made billions.
Why did Michael Burry pay attention to what was happening when so many others did not? He jokes about how it could be due to seeing things differently since the loss of an eye in childhood; Whether it’s true or not, certainly “seeing things differently” is a way of protecting our “blind side.” One way to do that on our own is to simply take a different perspective and see things from as many different angles as we can; Examples include “playing devil’s advocate,” waiting a day to see things from another perspective, changing locations, or going to a retreat to gain perspective. An even better way is to seek and use the input of others, and the more and more different the perspectives, the better; here’s a case where there really is strength in numbers.
The road to failure is paved with blind spots, including entire organizations and industries blind to the market or competitive dynamics. After dominating the auto market, Henry Ford lost a significant market share to General Motors in the early 1900s because he was blind to changing consumer tastes; the demand for “basic transportation” gave way to preferences for different models with more features and more colors. The entire American auto industry was blind to inroads by Japanese automakers, eventually losing nearly half of its collective market share. IBM became unbalanced in the 1970s and 1980s, blind to the possibility that small personal computers, and Apple in particular, represented a lot. Sometimes rapid growth, success, or size contribute to blind spots, as apparently the giant organizations in 2008 believed themselves to be “too big to fail.” Richard Tedlow does an excellent job of documenting classic cases of denial, a close cousin of the blind sides, in his new book Denial. *
One scary thing about the blind sides is that whatever they are hiding is still there, impacting our lives and organizations, whether we are aware of it or not; that is why they are called “blind sides”. Unfortunately, we sometimes learn about the blind sides when it is too late, after a crisis, traumatic losses, or digging a hole that is too big to escape. I know that at times I have been blind to the reality of what was happening or to my situation when a better understanding of what was blocking my view would have paid a lot of dividends. Things that “just don’t go our way” over and over again or the fact that we find ourselves consistently falling into the same bindings are often signs of blind sides and our inability or unwillingness to face certain truths. These are times when we need to take time to seriously reflect, seek feedback that we really care about and open ourselves up or seek experiences that help us see things from a different perspective; Valid personality surveys, skill inventories or “360 ° surveys for individuals, especially when accompanied by training, can help here. Perhaps at times like these we need what the Buddhists call Kalyana mitra, or” noble friend “, who as John O’Donahue tells us in Anam Cara * “will not accept pretensions, but will confront you gently and firmly with your own blindness.” Organizations and teams can also be blind to their strengths and vulnerabilities – here again, periodic evaluations of the organization, especially accompanied by Skillful interpretation by a consultant can significantly reduce dangerous blind spots.
We all likely have serious enough personal, professional, organizational, and community challenges to solve without being hampered by blind spots.
- Are there any indicators that blind spots may be affecting your life or work? How could you find out? What are some steps I could take to compensate for potential blind spots?
- Could there be blind spots that affect other people around you, perhaps acquaintances, your organization, industry or community? How to draw attention to them and reduce their impact?
“Ninety percent of the world’s ills come from people who don’t know themselves, their abilities, their weaknesses, and even their true strengths.” (Sydney Harris)