St. Louis’ great philosopher / baseball player once said, “You can observe a lot just by watching.” I don’t know that he had business leaders in mind when he waxed philosophical, but executives should take heed nonetheless. The alternative is what is known as “bounded awareness.”
Bounded awareness describes a phenomenon that occurs when cognitive blinders prevent a person from seeing, seeking, using, or sharing highly relevant, easily accessible, and readily perceivable information during a decision-making process. It can happen at various points in the decision-making process when decision-makers don’t gather relevant data, consider critical facts, or understand the relevance of the information they have. It can also happen later when these decision makers don’t share information with others, thereby limiting general knowledge. Often executives put on their decision-making blinders when they become insensitive to changing environments.
What gauges does your team use to foresee the future? What data would help them predict strategic changes for your organization? If you and they don’t know what you’re looking for, you run the risk that your blinders will lead to your being blindsided. Here are some steps to help you increase your awareness of the dangers that may lurk in your corner of the world:
- Know what you are looking for and train your eyes to see it. Just as Secret Service agents scan a crowd to recognize risks, executives can prepare themselves and others to recognize threats and opportunities.
- Develop or pay for an outsider’s perspective that gives you a new or different slant .Make sure you seek and hear disconfirming evidence.
- Think about the full context of the situation, without overemphasizing one focal event.
- Ask for information explicitly.
- Create a culture that makes information sharing the default position.
Yogi also advised, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might wind up someplace else,” a noteworthy observation for anyone in a leadership position. But my personal favorite, “Half the lies they tell about me aren’t true,” takes the gold.