Best Practices in HR
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Tamara Irminger Underwood
  May 8, 2015

How to See Past Blind Spots in Business

The phrase “Blind Spots” is common in our interpersonal lives, but the idea is equally applicable in business. In personal situations, blind spots occur when we have behavior we may not see ourselves (but others do), and it is often used in relationship situations, when we aren’t aware of our patterns.

In business, blind spots are equally prevalent, and the consequences can be just as damaging as they are in our personal lives. When companies release products without understanding how they customer will actually use them; when a brand creates a campaign with little strategy or testing behind it; when a new CEO takes the helm and makes re-organizational changes without first understanding the standing structure or the employees’ needs — these are all examples of business blind spots.

Business blind spots occur all the time. The complexity of multiple departments, various levels of leadership, multiple brands, and differing ideas of how a company should be managed all contribute to blind spots.

But here’s the good news: Blind spots aren’t a bad thing in business.

What’s “bad” is when companies refuse to recognize that they have blind spots, and they march onward, oblivious to the aspects that they’re unaware of in their business style. Furthermore, the in-house position that we all have within our companies perpetuates our business blind spots, because it’s hard to have an objective view of what we are so immersed in, every day.

How to deal with business blind spots

As they say in psychology, the first step to get past a problem is to recognize it. Blind spots are no different. First, in a business capacity,  we need to all recognize that we have blind spots. Once blind spots are acknowledged, the wisest step is to bring in a third-party that can provide an outside view to what we subjectively are unable to see.

Before you cringe (consultants? Ick. I can do my job just fine, thank you) consider this: Corporate myopia and group think can absolutely weaken a business and leave a gaping hole that the competition is going to be all too eager to fill. Without an outside perspective that helps us see what our blinders prevent us from viewing, we will never gain an edge.

After a while, we start to look foolish as customers grow frustrated over gaps in our service capabilities, holes in the sales process, and problems with our products.

A surprising messenger of our business blind spots: The Customer

Consultants are frequently given negative associations because they march in and roll out a “magic formula” for companies to follow. They pull out charts, spreadsheets, and processes. They reorganize and revamp.

The formulaic approach that consultants bring can offer positive changes, but it doesn’t show the whole picture. In fact, if you really want to understand where your blind spots are, you’ll need to get a perspective from your customers themselves. (Or in the case of internal re-structuring, your employees themselves.)

How to see through business blind spots

When looking for third-party consulting to help your business see through blind spots, go for a perspective that’s beyond formulaic systems and methods; seek out a company that offers a perspective from your customers.

One of the most insightful methods to collect customer data is through qualitative research. It involves in-depth interviews, focus groups, and projective techniques that help you understand the “why’s”, “how’s” and “what’s missing” aspects of your business. Other methodologies, such as ethnographic research, will study customers in their home or shopping environments and uncover insights not otherwise realized in more traditional interview or focus group settings.

Your customers are one of the keys to unlocking and revealing your business blind spots – they will give you the answers, show you where the gaps are, and tell you what they’re looking for from a product or service.

Are you willing to seek your blind spots?