Urban legend says that blinders were invented when an English preacher wagered he could make his horse climb up the staircase in his home. Problem was, the horse panicked and would not return down the stairs. He would not budge. Once blinders were placed on the poor horses eyes, he became unaware of the lurking danger and did as he was told.
The horse didn’t have much choice, but how is it that humans willingly do the same, time and time again?
As a leader, innovator or change agent, you can have the most ground-breaking-disruptive-cutting-edge-game-changing-blue-ocean-well-funded innovation, but if you don’t know the real motivations of your stakeholders, it ain’t gonna happen. We freely wear blinders because we’re in love with our project. LOVE IS BLIND.
Those of us who have “fallen in love” (not a big fan of this concept, but we’ll save that for another post), know the sensation of waking up after weeks or months, realizing that we didn’t REALLY see the person in front of us. We were hyper-focused on what we wanted to see.
Mission critical issues are usually hidden in plain sight, i.e. right before our very eyes, but we just don’t see them.
On my entrepreneurial journey with a life-saving-HIV-preventing-cost-saving (insert any and all startup lingo superlatives here…) device, I had it all figured out. My company was about to save 3.5 million lives in Africa and $16.5 billion dollars in global health spending. Upon FDA clearance, we were featured on the cover of The New York Times.
Here I am presenting before a live audience of 13,000 people in Washington, DC (recall the days we did that without Zoom?). Did anyone say Nobel Prize? Open the gates of heaven, roll out the red carpet. Gosh, what WILL I wear (to be read like RuPaul)?!
I had a clear answer to WIIFT (What’s In It For Them). Saving lives and saving costs! What could be more valuable? It would take years of blood, sweat and many tears to uncover the stark truth. While I was sure that I knew WIIFT, each stakeholder had a very different idea about WIIFM (What’s In It For Me).
I spent the past couple of years codifying my profound learnings into a hands-on methodology that can help companies and entrepreneurs accelerate the adoption of innovation. By acknowledging that blind spots exist, we can take bold steps to mitigate them.
In a recent interview with esteemed Israeli News Anchor (in Hebrew), Romi Neumark, she asked me what advice I give to innovators. This interview was primarily focused on a Grand Challenges Canada virtual hackathon I was involved with, but the insights are applicable always. We had a candid discussion about blind spots and how crucial it is to understand the motivations, politics and agendas of all relevant people and organizations if you want your project to succeed.
Here’s the bottom line: It’s very rewarding and highly convenient to assume we know what people want or need when we’re trying to evoke change or introduce a novel product or idea. However, if you really want to make an impact, you must develop bionic vision to hack your blind spots™.
Leave the blinders to the horses.