Iâ€™ve been doing work on strategic and strategic planning with a number of different clients lately and itâ€™s gotten me thinking about the issue of blindspots. There are things that we know to be true (or we suspect them to be so). I donâ€™t mean dogma or blind faith, but rather through data, research, experience, customer feedback, measuring performanceâ€”there are some things that we can confidently say â€œthis is something that we know to be true or accurate.â€
Then we have areas that we know we donâ€™t know. For instance, I know that Iâ€™m pretty uninformed about the tax code. Because of my awareness of my ignorance, I can make smarter decisions about taxesâ€”by hiring an accountant. Or being especially careful when I fill out my taxes each year.
The reality is that no person or organization can know everything. So ignorance about particular topics or situations is a reality of being in the world.
But a blindspot occurs when a person or organization is ignorant about a situation and doesnâ€™t realize the ignorance exists. It may be due to dogma. It may be because the situation has changedâ€”what used to be true no longer is but people havenâ€™t recognized that. It may be due to a lack of depthâ€”someone doesnâ€™t realize the degree of complexity to a particular issue. In short, a blindspot is a case where we donâ€™t know that we donâ€™t know something.
Blindspots are particularly damaging to organizations. Thatâ€™s because most big surprises (especially environmental or market ones) to organizations tend to occur because of a collection blindspot that meant the organization and executives simply failed to perceive the potential for surprise with that specific issue.