Are You Wearing Blinders?

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It happens to all of us from time to time. We miss out on something great — an insightful podcast, a hot show on Netflix, or, maybe, that million-dollar idea — all because we're wearing blinders. And yes, it can even happen to you!

If you're a video person, I lay it all out in the video below. If reading is more your thing, skip the video and hop straight to the transcript below!

Are you missing out on some of the best ideas available to you because you're wearing blinders?

I'll tell you what I mean. I live here in Seattle, Washington now, but I was born and raised in a town called Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Now, when you think of Lancaster — and I know you do — what do you think of? What are you thinking of right now? Well, if you're like most people — and I know you are because that's why they call them most people, because most... It doesn't matter. You're probably thinking about the Amish, aren't you? It's what Lancaster is known for: the Pennsylvania Dutch, the Amish, the horses and buggies, the farm land, the farm houses. It's really beautiful.

Now, if you ever go to Lancaster and visit an Amish farmhouse, one of the things you're going to notice about the horses is that they're all wearing blinders. Partly as a fashion choice, sure. But mostly so that they can't see other options. So they can only see straight ahead. They're not going to be distracted by other possibilities. Now this is a good idea for Amish horses, because if that horse is your sole source of transportation, you do not want to end up upside down in a ditch because Cinnamon saw a rabbit, do you?

So blinders, great idea for Amish horses, not such a great idea for leaders like you and me, because we want to see options. We want to see other possibilities don't we? And this can happen to any one of us at any given time. We think, well, no that's not me, I don't wear blinders. I'm open-minded. Of course I'm open to new ideas — but you might be wearing them without even knowing it. For example, have you ever fallen into the trap — and it's a trap about blinders — of only listening to the loud people?

A few years ago, I was the president of a small local association. And we had a pretty good year, it was a one-year term. But there was a woman on the board named Laura, and she just kind of sat there, and every meeting, didn't really contribute anything. But it didn't matter because everybody else was good. So we got by, despite Laura.

So after my term was over, I was talking to somebody who happened to be a mutual friend of both mine and Laura's and some of the others on the board. And he asked me how my year went. I said, "Yeah, went well, we got a lot done. I mean, we had a little bit of dead weight on the board in the form of Laura but, we still got things done." And he looked at me. He said, "Are you kidding? Are you out of your mind? Laura is one of the most brilliant marketers I know. Oh my goodness, she is super smart! You didn't take advantage of that?" No, because I was wearing blinders — and inside my blinders, I only listened to the loud people. Have you ever fallen into that trap of thinking, "Well, of course only loud people have good ideas, right? The quiet people never have good ideas."

As a leader, make sure you listen to everybody. You never know where the great ideas are going to come from. You never know who the great is going to come from. If it's a multimillion dollar idea, does it matter that it came from the intern? But if you've got blinders on and you think, "Well, the intern can't possibly have anything good to say, the quiet person can't possibly have anything good to say," you're wearing blinders.

 So here's my advice for you today. Take a look around at the way you lead and ask yourself, "Is there any place where I'm wearing blinders that I might not be aware of it?" because the first step is becoming aware of it — and then you can look out for it.

About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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