BEST PLACES TO FIND BLIND SPOTS

October 22nd, 2014

We can have blind spots in any area of our lives.  If we are serious about leadership growth and development, then we must seek blind spots wherever they may be found.  The goal is to identify our blind spots, eliminate them where possible, and compensate for the ones that we cannot eliminate completely.  Here are key dimensions of our lives that we should target:

Colleague Relationships.  Periodic feedback sessions can help you to assess blind spots you might be experiencing with your colleagues.  Not only can colleagues help you to understand your blind spots, but the honest sharing often opens the door to a mutual blind spot assessment for everyone’s benefit.

Family.  Your family knows you better than anyone.  By maintaining healthy, positive family relationships, you automatically have a free sounding board.  That sounding board can be a valuable source of insight into your blind spots.

Career Planning.  Career planning is a lifelong challenge.  That is totally understandable when you consider the constantly changing nature of training, college, career choices, industries, the workplace, and the economy.  If you do not have all the facts or if you are missing a key piece of the career-planning puzzle, then you might have a blind spot.  Research, reading, and seeking expert opinions will enable you to eliminate or compensate for those blind spots.

Worldview.  Your worldview encompasses your philosophy of life, your overall spiritual or religious convictions, and your fundamental basis for how you relate to people.  While you certainly prefer not to think that you have any blind spots in your worldview, by definition, your worldview is too important to accept blindly.  Your worldview should be hardy enough to withstand scrutiny.  Should you discover flaws within your worldview, then that means it is time to change your worldview.  I have seen people make radical positive changes in their lives due to a worldview adjustment.

Blind spots might befall us in colleague relationships, family, career planning, or worldview.  Seeking to identify those blind spots will give us the opportunity to make these four areas better.  That will only help our personal and professional growth.





BLIND SPOT CONTROL

October 21st, 2014

Just as we have insect control and pest control, if we are serious about leadership growth and development, then we must have blind spot control.  Blind spots, by definition, tend to sneak up on us.  I cannot see my own blind spots but they are usually visible to others.  Likewise, I seem to be very gifted at seeing other people’s blind spots.  Here are a few simple yet powerful guidelines that can protect us from our own blind spots:

1—Be open to feedback from others.  You will not necessarily always enjoy the feedback and you might even disagree with it.  However, that is not the purpose of feedback.  The purpose of feedback is to pass along another person’s perspective or observation with the potential opportunity for your growth.  Instead of summarily dismissing it, the wise person learns to welcome it and actively explore it.  Perhaps you will gain a new insight about a blind spot.  If so, you are well on your way to additional leadership growth.

2—Never assume that you know it all.  The moment you assume that you know it all, you will have closed the door to new insights.  Your blind spots will remain invisible.  Discipline yourself to ask questions of others, even when you think you know the answers already.  Learn to be open to input from virtually any source.  You never can know exactly where the next great idea or brilliant insight will originate.  Assuming that you know it all will definitely kill that opportunity.

3—Spend time in self-assessment.  Taking the time to examine your life can pay rich dividends.  Make it a point periodically to review all aspects of your leadership, your communication style, and your interpersonal skills.  Look for any red flags or areas that may need improvement.  Sometimes this strategy can be augmented by taking various skills inventories, psychological profiles, and other quizzes.

4—Tap your inner circle.  Think about the individuals with whom you work or communicate most closely.  These would be your closest colleagues, confidants, friends, and mentors.  Seek their input about your blind spots.  They can be a powerful source of insight.  Additionally, they can provide strategies for correcting blind spots where possible or compensating for them as much as possible.

As long as we are human, blind spots will befall us.  The good news is that an active strategy of blind spot control will help us continually to grow personally and professionally.





BEATING BLIND SPOTS

October 20th, 2014

One of the most important prerequisites for leadership growth is beating your blind spots.  Perfect people do not have any blind spots.  Therefore, if you are a perfect person, then this material will not apply to you.  Read no further.

You are still reading.  That is a good sign because it means you—like me—recognize that we are not perfect.  We all have blind spots.  We have come to understand that the question is not whether we have blind spots, but rather what are we doing to eliminate them where possible and compensate for the ones we cannot completely eliminate?  Blind spot awareness is something that tends to grow over time if we are personally and professionally committed to growth.

Blind spot awareness directly correlates with a willingness to learn.  When a person is new in a certain industry or position, it is easy to be overconfident after acquiring a nominal knowledge of that new world.  However, when that occurs, then that person will tend to have many blind spots and not even know they exist.  Additional learning is usually the key to conquering those blind spots.

Blind spot awareness correlates with humility.  An arrogant or prideful person will have difficulty recognizing his or her blind spots.  However, amazing things can happen when that same person shifts to a humble attitude.  Opportunities will abound for gaining insights into blind spots and how to conquer them.

Blind spot awareness correlates with a willingness to receive feedback from other people.  I am certain that you have observed a certain person manifesting a serious fault or flaw in some aspect of leadership or performance.  You probably looked at that person and could not believe that she did not see what was happening.  Turn the tables on this.  Is it possible you have ever been that certain person?  We all have.  That is why continuously demonstrating an approachable persona is extremely important.

The worst thing about blind spots is that they enable us to do damage ignorantly.  That is why recognizing blind spots is crucial so that we can correct them or compensate for them.





tDCS IS COMING SOON

October 17th, 2014

Advancements in neuroscience, medicine, and learning have taken us to an interesting place.  Alexis Madrigal describes its background (“Prepare To Be Shocked” The Atlantic, September 2014, pp. 28–30):

Several years ago, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency got wind of a technique called transcranial direct-current stimulation, or tDCS, which promised something extraordinary: a way to increase people’s performance in various capacities, from motor skills (in the case of recovering stroke patients) to language learning, all by stimulating their brains with electrical current.” (p. 28)

Thync is a startup based in Los Gatos, California.  Having already raised $13 million from investors, it plans to sell a small, Bluetooth-enabled tDCS device beginning next year.  Brad Stone reports on Thync’s marketing strategy (“Just Relax” Bloomberg Businessweek, 10/13/14–10/19/14, pp. 35–36):

While most scientists are focused on the therapeutic effects of tDCS, Thync is developing it as an alternative to mood-altering drugs such as alcohol and caffeine.” (p. 35)

Alcohol and caffeine work in two different directions.  Alcohol is a depressant whereas caffeine is a stimulant.  That is why the device can be set to whichever cranial effect is desired: “calm vibe” or “energy vibe.”

Technologically, this is fascinating.  Therapeutically, it has the promise of changing people’s approach to mood-altering drugs.  Commercially, this will be a very interesting niche to watch.

Many unknowns exist.  Even Thync states that one of the biggest challenges is simply helping the consumer understand how to apply the device so that the correct electrical stimulation occurs.  I would assume that Thync has done its homework in mapping the device to the brain.  Otherwise, you are just wasting electricity or in a worst-case scenario, injuring your brain.

Currently, the company is in talks with the Food and Drug Administration to ensure regulatory compliance.  Thync’s CEO, Isy Goldwasser, is very optimistic.  He leaves us with an enticing sales pitch:

‘the energy you’re getting is your energy, the calm you’re feeling is your calm, the self-control you feel is your self-control.  We aren’t changing you at all.  It’s your body and mind responding to a signal.’





PASSIONATE PURPOSE BRINGS THE NUMBERS

October 16th, 2014

Revenue, profit, sales, and other financial metrics are all important to a business.  That is why we measure them.  As important as they all are however, it is more important to ensure that the organization has a clearly defined purpose for existence.  The organization’s purpose will drive its numbers.  I like the way Jon Gordon expresses this truth in his book, The Seed: Finding Purpose and Happiness in Life and Work (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2011):

When a company focuses on its purpose instead of numbers, everyone is passionate and energized and this energy fuels performance and enhances the bottom line.  . . . It’s not the numbers that drive people, it’s your people and purpose that drive the numbers.” (p. 115)

You cannot be focused on your purpose without it driving your numbers.  Every decision you make will first pass through the grid of does this help our purpose?  If it helps your purpose, then it has to help your numbers.  If it will not help your purpose, then it cannot help your numbers.

Numbers do not understand purpose; passionate people do.





BAD ENOUGH TO BE GOOD

October 15th, 2014

Danny Meyer is the CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group.  He has successfully launched numerous restaurants.  In so doing, he has faced many obstacles.  Out of that experience he shares some wisdom for all businesspersons (“Pivot” Inc., June 2014, pp. 72–79):

Any great business has to figure out how to turn adversity into advantage, by determining what is good about the new situation.

What I love about this affirmation is that it condemns complacency and endorses creativity.  It is not that you are ignoring the difficulties, but you are disciplining yourself to envision a better future.  Rather than giving in to a defeatist mentality, you are exercising the opportunity to analyze the new situation so that you discover hidden advantages.  It is these hidden advantages that reveal a new strategy.

The next time you are facing adversity, immediately ask the question how can I turn this into an advantage?  What is good about my new situation?  If you do that, then you will find greater success than you could have imagined.

Is the situation bad enough to be good?  If you look hard enough, it will be.





WILL DIRECT BRAIN STIMULATION ENHANCE INTELLIGENCE?

October 14th, 2014

Advancements in neuroscience, medicine, and learning have taken us to an interesting place.  Alexis Madrigal describes its background (“Prepare To Be Shocked” The Atlantic, September 2014, pp. 28–30):

Several years ago, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency got wind of a technique called transcranial direct-current stimulation, or tDCS, which promised something extraordinary: a way to increase people’s performance in various capacities, from motor skills (in the case of recovering stroke patients) to language learning, all by stimulating their brains with electrical current.” (p. 28)

This is very exciting because it represents the confluence of several disciplines to produce a potentially powerful human benefit.  Here are four key predictions about where all this might take us:

1—Brain stimulation will expand our understanding of the brain-mind connection.

2—DIY brain stimulation will be popular—and risky.

3—Electrical stimulation is just the beginning.

4—The most important application may be clinical treatment.” (p. 30)

These predictions are significant for several reasons.  As with any new field, the potential for error is serious if not handled carefully.  This reminds me of some of the early studies in virtual reality in which participants become so enmeshed in their virtual worlds, that upon disengagement they experienced severe depression and disorientation.  Just as we learned with virtual reality, the promise of tDCS is great, but it will have to be used and monitored sensitively.  There will be wise and unwise ways to use tDCS.  Hopefully, we will be able to focus on the wise.





EXPECTANT LEADERSHIP

October 13th, 2014

Do not expect in others what you do not first see in yourself.  That is a leadership principle.  If you are a genuine leader, then you will first be modeling the leadership that you expect your followers to embrace.

Sometimes this is difficult.  You cannot model what you have not first embraced.  It is only by effective modeling that your leadership gains credibility.

If you expect patience, care, kindness, and diligence in your followers, then by this leadership principle, you have some accountability.  Are you modeling that patience, care, kindness, and diligence?  If you expect your followers to provide an excellent customer experience, are you providing an excellent customer experience?  If you expect your followers to project a positive attitude, are you projecting a positive attitude?  If you expect your followers to be continuously learning and growing, are you continuously learning and growing?

Leadership is easier said than done.  Every leader knows this.  Expectant leadership is one principle you can never escape.  However, the expecting only finds its fulfillment when you are doing the modeling first.  If you are not modeling, then it makes no sense to be expecting.





THE LUNCH CRUNCH

October 10th, 2014

Not all that goes crunch is lunch.  Most people would likely agree with that statement, especially when they think of bugs for lunch.  On the other hand, we have a new trend developing of insect consumption as a normal dietary practice.  Katie Van Syckle describes her first experience of having bugs for lunch (“Crickets for Lunch: The Insect Food of the Future Is Finally Here” Bloomberg Businessweek, 10/6/14–10/12/14, p. 90):

At first bite, Exo’s cricket-based protein bar tastes like a fancy Fig Newton.  The cacao nut variety, in particular, has a similar crumbly texture and datelike flavor, with boozy notes of brandy.  Pairing it with coffee, I forget I’m eating the arms, legs, heads, and wings of 40 bugs that have been pulverized into cricket flour to produce the treat, which you can buy for $3 at health-food stores.

The trend is catching on at gyms, health-food stores, and specialty restaurants.  As with any new, exotic, or nontraditional food, getting beyond the ick factor can be a challenge:

There’s a reason vanilla and cinnamon are still high on Exo’s ingredient list.  Will the average consumer eat dried bugs?

Exo remains optimistic.  It sees its cricket-based protein bar as the gateway bug.  And we all know what happens from there!





PICK UP AN ALGORITHM ON THE WAY HOME

October 9th, 2014

Kenny Daniel and Diego Oppenheimer are the founders of a startup called Algorithmia.  Algorithmia is essentially a virtual marketplace where companies can purchase algorithms, small snippets of code, or complete programs.  Academic coders contribute code to the startup, which then makes that code available to companies.  The areas of specialization include (Olga Kharif, “Innovation: Algorithmia” Bloomberg Businessweek, 10/6/14–10/12/14, p. 45):

language-recognition functions, . . . analytics for Web traffic or predicting user purchases.

Daniels clarifies the startup’s purpose as:

a way of crowdsourcing artificial intelligence.  . . . We want to bring together algorithms that do image processing and language processing and hopefully build a more intelligent system.

I think the collaborative networking aspect of Algorithmia is outstanding.  It is another example of excellent partnership between businesses and institutions of higher learning.  When you consider all the talent residing in our academic community, the prospects are staggering.

Finally, if a company cannot find the code it seeks, it is free to post a reward for the specified coding.  Subsequently, the company and the programmer who creates it can negotiate a licensing deal.