A Different Kind of Blind Spot

Welcome to the first edition of The Spiral Path – the companion newsletter
to my Spiral Path blog.

In this newsletter, I refer to the concepts of Quantum Leadership® and
The Spiral Path™. You can find out more about these concepts on my website.

Over the last half a year I have given a lot of thought to what I might write
about in this the premiere edition of The Spiral Path. I’ve written
myself notes and possible titles have come and gone in my mind. In the end
though, I have come back to my very first thought – the concept of our
Blind Spot. I am heavily indebted to C.
Otto Scharmer
* for the central insight
of this article as well as many of his words that I will quote directly.

When we think about our blind spot, we think about something that is in front
of us but we can’t see it. A colleague I was discussing this with recently
observed “it’s something we don’t want to see.” There
are certainly many of those, but I want to talk about a different view of
the blind spot. Something that is within the range of our perception but is,
in fact, invisible.

Before I explain what I mean by that, let’s start with why it’s
important. The current global geo-political situation presents serious challenges
for humankind. Our friend, Otto Scharmer, puts it much better than I could:

  • We have created a
    thriving global economy that yet leaves 850 million people suffering from
    hunger and 3 billion people living in poverty (on less than two dollars per
    day). The poor of the world — about 80 percent of mankind — live on 15 percent
    of the world’s total GNP.
  • We invest significant resources on our agriculture and food systems only to create
    nonsustainable mass production of low-quality junk food that pollutes both
    our bodies and our environment, resulting in topsoil degradation of a territory
    as large as India (the equivalent of 21 percent of the present arable land
    in the world.)
  • We spend enormous resources on health care systems that merely
    tinker with symptoms and are unable to address the root causes of health and
    sickness in our society. Our health outcomes aren’t any better than in many
    societies that spend far less.
  • We also pour considerable amounts of money
    into our educational systems, but we haven’t been able to create schools and
    institutions of higher education that develop people’s innate capacity to
    sense and shape their future, which I view as the single most important core
    capability for this century’s knowledge and co-creation economy.
  • In spite of alarming scientific and experimental evidence for an accelerating
    climate change, we, as a global system, continue to operate the old way — as
    if nothing much has happened. More than half of the world’s children today
    suffer conditions of depravation such as poverty, war, and HIV/AIDS. As a
    result, 40,000 children die of preventable diseases every day. (Theory
    U
    ,
    pp 2-3)

This situation represents a serious threat to most organisations. It certainly
makes it difficult to plan with any semblance of certainty. These issues
are central to many organisations (eg governments, NGOs, aid organisations
and environmental groups) but none are exempt. Business is increasingly
required to respond to environmental and social concerns. Many would argue
that regardless of government regulation, it is good business to do so.
At a deeper level, most of us are concerned about the kind of world we will
leave to our children. We can’t divorce what we do from 9 – 5 (if
anyone still works from 9 to 5) from the kind of world we are creating.
So the challenge is to do good work and do good business in an environment
in which we feel very little sense of individual control.

This is where the blind spot comes in.

Since it’s his idea, I will let Scharmer provide a definition:

“…the place within or around us where our attention originates. It’s the place
from where we operate when we do something. The reason it’s blind, is that it
is an invisible dimension of our social field, of our everday experience in social
interactions.”

You might want to go back and read that again.

It is the place where our attention originates. You and I may give a great
deal of thought to what we give attention to but do we think much about where
that attention originates? That is, what is it within us or around us that
leads us to pay attention to one thing and not another?

I find it a very difficult question to answer but at the same time I have a
sense that it is a very important question. There are times when my awareness
of this spot is acute. I can’t describe it but I am aware of it and when
I am aware of it my decision making process is different. I become aware of
possibilities that I had never thought of. I am sure you have had similar experiences.
There are times when time, at one and the same time, both speeds up and slows
down. Things are happening quickly but I seem to have the ability to act in
slow motion. (cf the work of Csikszentmihalyi)

I think this is what Otto Scharmer is talking about with his concept of the
blind spot. This awareness.

So what has this to do with
responding to the global issues I quoted before? I believe that as groups of
us become aware of our blind spot – the place where our attention originates – we
will become far more creative within our sphere of influence and generate possibilities
that weren’t there before.

Our sphere of influence may be, by our own account, quite limited but as we
become aware of our blind spot we influence others, both within our organisation
and outside it. The first impact we will see is that our own organisation,
or our part of our organisation, becomes more creative and what I like to call
generative. Scharmer suggests that we begin to create the future, or more accurately “we
bring into being the future that is seeking to emerge.” This is a challenging
concept but at the same time I find it quite exciting.

Regardless, this creativity and generativity both makes our organisation (or
our part of it) more effective and that very effectiveness addresses in some
way the global challenges that face us. For example we may find a more cost
effective way to produce our product that at the same time reduces greenhouse
emissions. Or we may develop a pricing structure that makes our product more
widely accessible and at the same time yields a higher margin.

This is a simplistic representation of complex interactions that become possible
when we intentionally operate from our blind spot but I hope it serves to illustrate
potential scenarios.

At the heart of all this is the very foundation of leadership. Whether you
are in a formal leadership position or not you have the potential to influence

As Scharmer puts it:

“The essence of leadership is to shift the inner place from which we
operate both individually and collectively.”

His challenge then, to each of us is to make this shift, to find our blind
spot and operate intentionally from it. From this we will become more creative
and generative in our work and our organisations and we may just be surprised
how much capacity we have to influence others.

How we do this is an article all by itself.

I leave you with this closing thought from a completely different source:

The outward work
will never be puny
if the inner work
is great.
And the outward work
can never be great or even good
if the inward one is puny and of little worth.(M. Fox, Original Blessing: a primer in creation spirituality 1983)

 

 

If you would like to follow any of the
thoughts in this article further you might like to check out these links
and further reading
.

* I will refer to many authors and commentators
in these articles. I do so with the usual disclaimer that their views are
their own and don’t necessarily represent mine. I include these references
because I think the author’s work is interesting and thought provoking.
In this particular case, while I find Scharmer’s work fascinating, stimulating
and challenging, it concerns me that his work results in the establishment
of another "institute." There
are many schools of thought that relate or overlap Scharmer’s. These schools
don’t revolve around the ideas of a single person rather the development
of a whole way of thinking resulting from the contribution of hundreds
or thousands of people over time.

 

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