Why is it that so many carefully researched decisions go wrong? When have you been involved in researching, planning and preparing to undertake a major project, only to find that something major has been overlooked or not considered, that then caused the project to fail? One reason is that the decision-maker or makers did not consider key factors and the ‘not-considering’ are often due to ‘blind-spots’.
You may have heard statements like, “I’ve got a bit of a blind-spot when reviewing overly detailed designs and long-winded documents” acknowledging that there’s an area of focus where the process is not quite as rigorous as what is really required.
However, even if we’re aware of one personal blind-spot, we may not realize how many others we have. So how can we identify this failure in decision making, given that it is, by nature, “hidden”?
The answer is to use Blind-spot Analysis. This technique which is really a ‘final safety net’ leads you through a systematic audit of your decision making and is detailed below.
Most strategy models teaching decision making, rely on rational and objective behaviour and ignore or don’t acknowledge the mental filters through which individuals normally process information. This often results in the decisions made being flawed, perhaps fatally, without the business organization even knowing it. Blind spot analysis uncovers flaws in the process that are caused by bias and misinterpretation.
Blind spots manifest themselves in three ways:
- Complete ignorance of strategically important issues;
- Being aware of but incorrectly interpreting such issues;
- Interpreting such issues correctly, but too slowly, so the response comes too late.
Obviously then identifying and removing blind spots is critical for effective strategic decision-making.
There are seven primary sources of blind spots:
- Invalid Assumptions
- Winners Curse
- Escalating Commitment
- Constrained Perspective
- Information Filtering
- Educated Incapacity
An eighth source that can also cause blind spots, is ‘group think’ or the ‘herd mentality’ caused via a tendency of groups or teams to make a choice that is the least common denominator or the safest option, that all can agree to, but which may not be the optimum choice.
How to use blind spot analysis:
For smaller less impactful decisions, use the above listed 8 sources as a check list and challenge yourself and your decision to either confirm if you have been subject to any of these resultant blind spots or whether your decision is really objective and free of blind spots.
For broader decisions use a more formal auditing approach, involving other peers or colleagues, independent of the decision, checking that your decision has not overlooked important factors. This type of peer-review uses the above listed 8 sources as a check list; and in addition the colleague would challenge you, as the decision maker to demonstrate how you have rigorously taken account of each of the ‘blind-spot sources’ and have overcome their impacts.
In addition they could ask a series of questions such as –
- How have you identified, listed and checked all assumptions?
- Have you carried out a thorough risk analysis for each option?
- Are you weighing all evidence equally (and not giving more weight to data which supports your gut instinct or personal preference)?
- Are you ruling out any options because they involve breaking a “corporate taboo”?
6 June 2016