05/30/2017 01:55 EDT | Updated 05/30/2017 01:55 EDT

We Must Cast Light On Our Blind Spots

Young man shining a powerful torch on a starry night in Iceland, looking for the northern lights or aliens
dennisvdw via Getty Images
Young man shining a powerful torch on a starry night in Iceland, looking for the northern lights or aliens

Years ago, I was in a significant car accident. I was changing lanes and I didn't notice another car pull into my blind spot. As I changed lanes, the car smashed into my vehicle sending me and my crumpled car spinning. Fortunately, I emerged unscathed. My car, however, was not so lucky. It never drove again.

In our lives we have similar moments when something unperceived quickly emerges and shakes our sense of safety and security. Often, this disruptive force enters from a blind spot.

What is a blind spot? The Cambridge Dictionary defines a blind spot as either (1.) An area you are not able to see, especially the part of a road that you cannot see when you are driving, behind and slightly to one side of the car; or, (2.) A subject that you find very difficult to understand at all, sometimes because you are not willing to try.

My car accident clearly reflects the first definition. I should have avoided this accident by using different techniques or technologies designed to avoid accidents and keep me (and my car) safe. If we extend the first definition beyond vehicles, it seems likely that we all experience hazards related to blind spots in our lives and work. Prudence suggests that we develop new techniques to see and perceive more to avoid potential risks and hazards. In the case of a car, its design and use create blind spots and it is probable that the design of our every day lives also creates other areas that we are unable to see in which risk may lie.

The second definition of a blind spot takes this idea one step further to suggest blind spots are areas that we do not understand, sometimes because we lack the will to understand them. By applying this definition to ourselves as individuals or to our organizations or businesses, it suggests that blind spots are self-imposed; or at least created through an unwillingness to be open enough to explore these uncharted areas.

Why would we willfully choose to create blind spots? Perhaps to avoid truths that are too challenging or uncomfortable? Perhaps due to laziness or fatigue? Perhaps because the learning that may come in these areas would invalidate our current and long-standing beliefs?

I wonder what is lost in terms of learning and other personal or organizational growth by consciously choosing to create zones of ignorance or neglect in our lives?

In our polarized society, individual strong and absolute adherence to any belief or value system likely creates these blind spots. We create an environment in which learning from and teaching each other becomes extremely difficult. We all become less willing to hear another side of an argument, we become rigid in our way of thinking, we become stuck.

In our organizations, blind spots can rob us of the opportunity to see new paths forward and the ability to get ahead of disruptive threats. An adherence to past practice (the way things have always been done) or a close-mindedness to new ideas and insights will lead to stagnation and certain decline of an organization and its people.

As individuals and organizations, we must cast light on our blind spots. It is likely that real and compelling growth lies in these unknown and unexplored areas of our lives. We must no longer become skilled at pretending to know everything or having all the answers, but rather skilled at exploring, unlocking and learning. Our blind spots are likely full of riches. The unknown holds some of the most profound potential for learning and growth. Let's take the blinders off!

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