"Well, see and see but do not perceive, hear and hear but don’t understand… it states a mysterious fact. You can know a thing to death and be for all purposes completely ignorant of it."
(Marilynne Robinson, Gilead, pg. 7)
Like most of us and despite my best efforts, I miss things I shouldn’t. I work hard at being informed and prepared, looking at an issue from many different perspectives. Yet there are times when I realize I’ve missed something important. As a result, I’m caught off-guard and have little or no time to react effectively.
My immediate reaction is usually fear masked as anger – both at the other person(s) and at myself. In those instances, I am clearly not at my best.
When was the last time you missed something big? Were you blindsided as a result?
- Was it that customer order that didn’t materialize?
- A promotion you didn’t get?
- A meeting that back-fired?
- Colleagues who didn’t come through?
- A project that didn’t turn out the way you expected?
- Members of your team or department all heading in different directions?
There’s an old proverb that maintains: “To the blind, all things are sudden.”
I often wonder, “How can we sighted people be blind? What keeps us from seeing?” These things always intrigue me—especially when I begin to realize that I can be the root of my own blindness.
- For example, I have known certain people for so long that I occasionally stop hearing them without even realizing it, mentally finishing their sentences before they do.
- Other times I have done something for so long that I assume it will always work the same way or yield the same result.
Through the distorted lens of my own experience, I may not notice the subtle changes that have been going on for a long time. Those are the times where my attitudes and beliefs drive my interpretations and filter what I see and hear so heavily that I miss what is actually there.
When I look to other sources for my blindness, it is easy to identify things like the lack of sufficient information due to the silo effect. Other sources of blindness come from not understanding others’ expectations or not having shared values that promote alignment.
What vision issues within your organization have caused your team or company to be blindsided? What can a fresh outside perspective reveal that you have been overlooking?
Photo courtesy of olekiv.