How to See Your Blind Spots with Marshall Thurber


“What has experience go to do with success?” was almost the first thing Marshall asked me. It was also the first thing the originator of continuous improvement, Edwards W Deming, had asked Marshall, before barking back the answer… “NOTHING!”

If experience had anything to do with success, Marshall continued, how could it be that a personal computer manufacturer like Apple could enter and own the portable music market within a year? And do the same to the global cellular phone market as well?

Unfortunately for most people, me included, our true position at any point in time is largely invisible to us because of things we just don’t see: our blind spots.

This is why it is so important in life, and in business, to do things that help you see your true position as often as possible: so whatever is obscured in your blind spots becomes known.

Here are some suggestions as to how should you do this

1. Talk to someone outside your business about what they see. Fresh perspective is critical to unearthing blind spots and also to finding ways around the challenges that might lie within them.

2. Talk to someone independent. Unfortunately, human nature dictates we don’t always tell our friends there is a piece of food on stuck in their chin, their dress actually looks awful or their great marketing strategy sounds terrible! Having a relationship with an independent person is critical simply for these reasons, not to mention that an experienced business professional will also add value by understanding what is really happening and how to fix it.

3. Realise that “everything is information” as Deming would say. What this means is you should look beyond the obvious metrics to really see what is happening in your business and regard what you find pragmatically.

As an illustration, how you and your team personally act and react to stress and pressure is just as important to look at as sales data, customer history and cash flow trends. What I found as a CEO was that even the best strategy would struggle to have impact if I could not protect the team from themselves and the way they managed pressure.

4. Bring joy into your workplace and take time to play, explore and to ‘climb the mountain.’ When we are busy, stressed or under time pressure, we are not always able to see what could be – we are stuck in a valley and only see what is immediately around us. By investing in having fun and creating space, not only so we allow our team freedom to ask ‘what if’ but we also improve everyone’s experience of working together in the first place.

Make a point of listening to my interview with Marshall – he is one of the most stimulating and thought provoking people I have ever had the pleasure to meet.