Missing the Obvious

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In our eagerness to look below the surface or under the radar to identify inhibitors to high performance, we risk overlooking the obvious.

I admit there is a part of me that is drawn to looking where no one else seems to want to look — curious about what’s not being said, not being heard, not being looked at.

The Politics of Creativity is very much about equipping leaders to make visible the invisible, uncover “undiscussables”, examine the “sacred”, or explore beyond in order to identify inhibitors to high performance.

However, when discussing culture and high performance with R&D; leaders here in the Twin Cities last week, I realize now we emphasized our own bias towards uncovering those aspects of culture which are not obvious, not visible.

There are indeed very tangible and self-evident examples of cultural norms and behaviors. For example, do the men in your organization keep a neck tie behind the door to put on when going to the executive suite? If I asked you to describe some of the differences between the culture of Google and that of IBM you probably would be able to do so without much difficulty. Some of the differences are obvious.

I don’t want to be guilty of missing the obvious while seeking to help others uncover organizational blindspots.

  • Jack Johnston

    Steve: Everybody has problems with missing the obvious, in their physical, emotional or intellectual environment. We’ve all experienced one of the those “I could have had a V-8” moments.

    There are a number of expercises that we’ve all been through designed to help heighten awareness. At best I think most are tactics.

    There is one strategic approach to helping uncover and protect us from our blindspots – collaboration. While “group think” may be an issue within some collaborations, truly active, collaborative networks, that include people with diverse experience, and views can be a very effective way of keeping our vision sharp.

    At the core of any such group is trust, the willingness to risk expression and connection to others, particularly those that see things differently. A good leader understands the value arising from this risk and works to strengthen their perceptions and accuity by engaging with others.