How do you know what you don’t know?

06 Mar

In management, we always talk about the blindspot, which is defined as things that we don’t know about ourselves but others know of us. The best way to exemplify this is as follows, we rarely realize we have bad breath/body odor/annoying habits but other people will know it. The question here is, if I don’t know I have bad breath and you know I have bad breath, do you tell me? Is it better you tell me and help me solve my problem or do you not tell me to avoid an embarrassing situation? Which would the person with the bad breath prefer, to know or not to know?

One of the goals in team working is to minimize the collective blindspots of the team and by extension the organization. By sharing and giving each other feedback, we raise individual awareness of our own blindspots. However, this can only happen if as a team, the team accepts that it wants to be able to freely given and receive honest feedback. And the only way to give an receive honest feedback, is to pack and keep the EGO somewhere else.

Now, if we are having to make a decision, say we now need to design our organization, how do we become aware of our blindspots and hence the soundness of our decisions? On what basis do we define a role? Do we define it by what we know or do we exapnd our thinking to include what other’s know but we don’t? Are “other’s” limited to our colleagues or does it include our competitors and best practices?

Think about it, if we have been delivered word class results, then it is safe to infer that within our wisdom, the blindspots are smaller relative to the competitors. But if our performance has not been best in class, then by definition, our wisdom has limiting blindspots, right?

Now comes the next challenge, a role is defined on paper, but is brought to life by the person sitting in it. Do we therefore define our organization by just the people (hence capability) that are currently available, or do we look at the capabilities needed and go find the person who can best fill the role?

Where current capability meets or exceeds the requirements of the role, then it is not a problem, but what if the current capability does not meet the requirement? Like the bad breath problem, do we let the person sit in the job and everyone suffer in silence or do we find the right person or do we tell the person about the bad breath and help him overcome it?

These are all trade-off issues that leaders and management teams around the world grapple with day in and day out. What we have to be very careful, is to realise that our minds have enormous capacity to rationalize any decision we make, such that we feel emotionally comfortable with that decision, although it is not the right or best decision.

As time goes by and performance is not meeting expected results, we turn to blaming everything else except ourselves and the people around us because we made the decision to put them there.

1 Comment

Posted by on March 6, 2007 in General, Transformation


One response to “How do you know what you don’t know?

  1. Chas

    June 8, 2008 at 12:40 am

    Since we are beings honest here what is ‘word class result’? Just kidding, informative article!


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