I have blogged about this concept before, and I’ll do it again. It’s an issue resulting from human nature, and exacerbated by corporate culture. Here it is: We are predisposed to ignoring information that conflicts with our current beliefs.
Your big beautiful brain holds beliefs. You naturally and subconsciously look for information that supports your beliefs. This mechanism helps maintain your sanity. However, this has the potential to become a significant risk if teams / departments / organizations don’t establish cultural and leadership norms that mitigate this tendency.
Fact 1: We look for information that supports our existing beliefs, and reject information that conflicts with it.
Fact 2: When we hold two conflicting beliefs, our subconscious goes into overtime to resolve this.
Fact 3: Self-esteem plays a significant role in our ability to objectively assess and accept our own shortcomings, especially if our identity is wrapped up in our professional performance.
From a risk management and strategy perspective, this plays a big role in whether your organization is likely to adapt and stay ahead of emerging risks. By creating a culture where mitigating behaviours are the “norm”, you will be much more likely to:
1) Accept the possibility that blind spots exist, and the value of finding them
2) Look for new information that has the potential to position leaders to make the best decisions possible
3) Increase your clarity and acuity of environmental awareness
4) Be able to extrapolate accurately, because your base assumptions are more accurate than they would be
The solution: Or at least part of it:
• Recognize this inherent tendency, purpose to give outlier data a fair shake. When information challenges your assumptions, or suggests new risks, don’t just write it off. It’s not always valid, but if a strategic blind spot starts to present itself, be the first to shine a light on it. You can’t manage what you won’t acknowledge.
• Maintain a culture of continuous improvement, where finding and solving “the next gap” is seen as positive and desirable.
• Build a culture of strategy and change, where operations and finance doesn’t drive the whole business. Leadership, vision, and strategy should be dominant forces in your management.
• Maintain processes that are likely to identify new gaps on an ongoing basis, but will also provide an opportunity for assessment. Building this into your strategy reviews using a well-crafted research process will help you avoid operational dominance, group-think and environmental ignorance.
This happens all the time. There is always an organization who be the last one to turn the lights out on an industry or market. And we rely on those who are the first.
Which one will you be?