Avoiding the "Blind Spot" Phenomenon

A fast-growing HR firm based in Sydney was stunned when revenues suddenly plummeted. LinkedIn had just entered the Australian market. The HR firm had heard of LinkedIn; the tech start-up had launched in the United States seven years earlier, but the firm’s management team had been so focused on growing revenues, they hadn’t given it much thought. Now, LinkedIn was posting job candidates on the Australian web, and their business was in jeopardy. The management team hired innovation consultant Dr. Ralph Kerle to help deal with the disruption.

Ralph gathered all forty-one managers of the HR firm into a room and began their session by giving them all the FourSight Thinking ProfileHe wanted everyone to understand their thinking preferences before taking on a problem of this magnitude. First, they talked about individual thinking preferences. Then, he called for a show of hands to measure the team’s thinking profile.

“How many people on this leadership team prefer to clarify?” Two hands went up.
“Ideate?” One hand went up.
“Develop?” No hands went up.
“Implement?” Thirty-eight hands went up.
Forty-one pairs of eyebrows went up.
Was this normal? What did it mean?

“The revelation was a shock to everyone,” said Ralph. “Almost every leader was an Implementer. It helped explain why no one had seen this market disruption coming.” This team, as a collective, had such a strong preference to implement that no one had taken time to clarify market trends, ideate on possible disruptors, or develop a plan to address the risk. They’d all been busy implementing their current business model. That’s the hazard of homogeneity on a team when it comes to thinking preferences. Ralph coined a name for it. He called it “the blind spot phenomenon.”

The Blind Spot Phenomenon
Teams reflect the combined thinking preferences of the individuals on them. Teams full of people with identical preferences often feel very compatible because everyone tends to focus on the same things and skip over the same things. It’s great as long as you’re one of the people whose thinking preference aligns with the majority. If you don’t share your team’s thinking preferences, however, you may feel ignored, dismissed, or even shunned.

As a leader, you have to be careful. You often have the power to hire, promote, and reward people who think like you—and fire those who don’t. You can end up surrounding yourself with people who share your thinking preferences. The next thing you know, you may fall victim to the blind spot phenomenon.

Want to read more about it? This article is an excerpt from Sarah Thurber and Blair Miller's upcoming book, Good Team, Bad Team, due out June 4. Preorder now on Amazon. 

New call-to-action
Sarah Thurber

Sarah is managing partner at FourSight and the author of Good Team, Bad Team, The Secret of the Highly Creative Thinker, Creativity Unbound, and Facilitation: A Door to Creative Leadership. Her work helps teams and leaders think creatively, work collaboratively and achieve innovative results.