The many types of leadership blindness
Focusing is important, but sometimes noticing is better, at least when you are making critical decisions, according to Max Bazerman in his book The Power of Noticing: What the Best Leaders See. If you are naturally inclined to focus on what you are doing, then periodically you should take a break, remove your blinders, and notice all the valuable information around you.
Having said that, the book is primarily a fascinating exploration of the different ways in which we can be surprised by our failure to notice relevant information. These include:
- Inattentional blindness: Focusing too narrowly, leading to failure to notice relevant information
- Motivated blindness: Failing to notice a fact that we do not want to be true
- Leadership oversights: When leaders and regulators fail to make adequate investigations to identify problems
- Industrywide blindness: When the regulation of a whole industry is set up in a way that deters the detection of moral lapses
- Deliberate misdirection: When someone draws attention away from relevant facts by deliberately focusing on irrelevant facts
- Gradual changes: Facts which are not noticed because they result from gradual changes over a long period of time
- Errors of omission: Failing to notice when an expected event does not occur
- Too good to be true: Being too ready to accept impossible claims
- Not thinking ahead: Failure to consider in advance the likely outcome of a particular action
- Indirect Actions: Not noticing the indirect effect which a particular action has on others
There are plenty of stories used to illustrate each type of blindness, ranging from 9/11 to Hurricane Katrina. Cast in the same genre as books on behavioural economics, the book provides a highly entertaining and convincing explanation of its subject.