I’m coming up to 40 years old soon, and from the front I still have an ok head of hair (notwithstanding it receding a bit on the sides).
But on the top of my head, I have a part where my hair is thinning so much that you can see my balding spot.
Other people can see it, especially from behind me.
The problem is, I can’t see it.
And so I keep forgetting about it and am not aware of it. For all I can see, my hair is still fine everywhere. Until I go to the barber, he holds up a mirror to a place I never usually see, and I see what everyone else does.
This is similar to how companies often don’t see challenges from other competitors, upstarts and new disruptive innovations in the market.
Company management often want to focus on the performance within the company itself, and so often lose track of what is going on elsewhere.
And so Leadership often doesn’t spend enough time looking outward, at what is changing in the industry, at competitors, and new technological breakthroughs which are on the horizon.
Simply put, they develop blind spots.
And most of the time, we all don’t realise when we have a blind spot, even when someone tries to be helpful and point it out to us.
Worse, many people ignore what is in their blind spots even if people (like their employees or customers) try to warn them.
They think about how to improve performance for the types of customers they currently have, rather than trying to think about which innovations would bring in new customers in the future.
The main problem with blind spots, just like those when driving a car, is that if something is coming in your direction but you don’t see it, by the time it is close you often don’t have time to react and will get hit.
This is one of the reasons why large companies, and sometimes entire industries, are surprised when an innovative new solution disrupts their business as usual.
The way to combat this is to plan in time to search for an focus on innovative things which are happening both within your company (to help them along their path to success), but also in competitors, startups and even adjacent industries in your direct market and worldwide.
It might be impossible to eliminate every blind spot you have, but if you’re constantly looking around, you will definitely have fewer of them.
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