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The Six Deadly Blindfolds

by Guest Writter
Shane Cragun, Founding Principle, SweetmanCragun

As you read through the following list of companies, see what comes to mind: RadioShack, Sears, Blockbuster Video, Bethlehem Steel, Kmart, Blackberry, Atari, Tidal, and Polaroid.

If your answer is “all are on a path to irrelevance, or already extinct,” than you would be correct. Some are on their way to the emergency room, others are on life support, and an unfortunate few are already RIP.

Why? Compelling research suggest that the number one reason organizations fail is a failure to adapt to an ever changing external environment.

We suggest the root cause behind this is what we call organizational vision loss, or blindness. With regard to the human eye, vision loss is the decreased ability to see to the point that things become distorted. And total blindness is the inability to see anything at all.

It seems that organizations, and the leaders that lead them, become blind over time to the powerful external realities that shape their world. They become insular, and disadvantaged with all of the vision distortion that unfortunately comes with this. And they often forget who ultimately pays the bills.

We’ve identified six metaphorical blindfolds that leaders and organizations wear that create various degrees of blindness. These blindfolds are global in nature in that they tend to apply in every geography, culture, and industry.

  • Arrogance: An overbearing display of superiority, self-importance, and false pride.
  • Negative Feedback Not Acknowledge Here: The inability to hear anything negative about a project, the company, or yourself. The inability to confront the brutal facts because it might get in the way of your agenda, deadlines, and reputation.
  • Dismissing Competitors Successes: Refusing to accept a competitor’s success as valid and downplaying a competitor’s strategy and product innovations. Usually because of your own past successes.
  • We Know What’s Best for the Customer: An inability to have empathy for customer frustrations and needs, and a lack of inquisitiveness to find out ways to better align to customers current and future desires.
  • Believing Problems Don’t Exist: Being either completely blind to organizational and individual problems or dismissing them to protect oneself and the company.
  • Avoiding the Unavoidable: Seeing the writing on the wall, but assuming it will go away in miraculous ways, and life and business will eventually return to normal with no change required on our part.

We use the term Blindfold because we believe that these six blindfolds are, in reality, self-imposed. They are often put on subtly over time.

As a leader, how are you doing in ensuring these blindfolds are never put on in the first place, or taken off when recognized? And how do you do that?

Below is a quick quiz that we encourage all senior leaders to review with their teams at least once a quarter in a formal setting. The answers can lead to robust and healthy discussions that prevent bad things from happening to the business.

Six Deadly Blindfold Discussion Exercise

  1. To what degree have we as a leadership team directly or indirectly encouraged a culture of “arrogance?”
  2. To what degree have we as a leadership team directly or indirectly encouraged of “negative feedback not acknowledged here?”
  3. To what degree have we as a leadership team directly or indirectly encouraged a culture of “dismissing competitors successes?”
  4. To what degree have we as a leadership team directly or indirectly encouraged a culture of “we know what’s best for the customer?”
  5. To what degree have we as a leadership team directly or indirectly encouraged a culture of “believing problems don’t exist?”
  6. To what degree have we as a leadership team directly or indirectly encouraged a culture of “avoiding the unavoidable?”

We submit that there is a powerful law firmly in place in today’s Age of Disruption called the Law of the 21st Century Business Jungle:

Quickly Adapt or Perish!

Organizations in the 21st century who consistently generate remarkable results and create sustainable competitive advantages will be those that adhere to this powerful law. Savvy leaders will also be aware, and align themselves to, two powerful principles constantly in play no matter the market, industry, or geography.

  • Age of Disruption Principle – Today: To win today, individuals and organizations must be able to change internally faster and more dynamically than the speed and magnitude of external change.
  • Age of Disruption Principle – Tomorrow: To win tomorrow, individuals and organizations must create internal change capacity and capability faster than the rate of change projected to happen externally.

In the Age of Disruption, the ability to survive, thrive, and actually accelerate results – both individually and organizationally – is directly tied to your ability to outpace the change in your external environment. This requires that you are able to identify important shifts and trends in your external business environment, and respond proactively versus reactively.

The Six Deadly Blindfolds provide a useful framework that savvy executives keep at the ready in their toolkit as they try to help their teams and organizations stay ahead of change and shape their environment.

The Six Deadly Blindfolds and any kind of vision distortion, or vision loss, is unquestionably a fast way to slide into irrelevance and ultimately fail.


About the Author

Shane Cragun is a Founding Principle at SweetmanCragun, the world’s leader in providing leadership and hi-performance solutions specifically tailored for today’s Age of Disruption. See www.sweetmancragun.com for more information.

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