The concept of “blind spots” is common parlance in our interpersonal lives. Often, we talk about blind spots when referring to behaviors we have (and don’t realize), or in our relationship patterns. Others may see our behaviors clearly, but we may be oblivious to these same actions because of our blind spots.
In business, blind spots are just as prevalent. In fact, it’s almost impossible not to have blind spots in business. It’s simply not feasible to get in the minds of all of our customers and be able to understand how our products are widely received and used. Additionally, in larger companies, there are so many people and so many departments, that we simply can’t keep track of (or specialize) in all aspects of the business. And finally, because we’re so immersed in our own products and corporate culture, it’s hard for us to have a truly objective view of our company. Our in-house position creates blind spots, and that’s perfectly common and okay.
How blind spots hinder us in business
The first step is to recognize that we have business blind spots, and once we do this, then figure out what they are and how we can get past them. To tackle blind spots, management usually brings in outside advisors – consultants, in other words, who can give a fresh perspective and reflect back to the company strategy or insights they may be missing. Unfortunately, outside consultants are not always welcome or well-received; it’s hard to listen to someone else tell us how to do our own job – a job that we’re experts at.
However, without an outside perspective, blind spots and corporate myopia can absolutely take over a company’s functioning. Group think sets in, and the competition gains an edge if they start tapping into customer insights that one company’s blind spots prevent them from seeing.
How to stop fearing your business blind spots
One of the wisest, most strategic moves we can make in business is to admit we have blind spots and decide that we want a full, unbiased 360-degree perspective of our business: We need to choose to pursue an objective view of how our internal employees think, and seek a method to understand what our customers really want from our products and services.
The blind spot is not to be feared, in other words: It’s to be embraced.
An unlikely messenger of our blind spots: The Customer
Interestingly enough, consultants are often given bad reputations, or immediately disliked because they (often) come in and simply tell companies what to do. They pull out their charts and spreadsheets, and from this data, dictate where and how a company should move. While data and numbers from consultants can certainly change and provide a fresh perspective, it’s not the whole picture. The second half of the picture needs to come directly from your customers themselves – they are the ultimate messenger of The Blind Spot.
How to unlock business blind spots
Simply sending out surveys to customers or even conducting traditional focus groups with customers isn’t the whole solution. In two-way mirror settings, and in observed interview environments, customers may tell the company exactly what the customer thinks the interviewer wants to hear. Armed with this information, the company or researcher will say – “See, your original strategy is correct.” In other words, no blind spots are uncovered.
To get beyond this common problem, look instead for a third-party research company that is able to use tactics that get below the surface. Techniques such as projective methods, role-playing exercises, and even something like creating collages can actually reveal far more than what customers actually say. Other methodologies, such as ethnographic research, will study customers in their home or shopping environments and reveal insights not otherwise revealed in more traditional interview settings.
Your customers are an amazing source of information – they will give you the answers, show you your blind spots, and tell you what they’re looking for from a product or service.
Are you willing to listen?