Tunnel vision: The enemy of strategic thinking

tunnel vision

Two weekends ago, I went to Disneyland with my brother. We had a good time and got a on a lot rides. Including some I’ve never gotten on before. Astro Blasters is one such ride. If you’ve never experienced it, think of it as a shooting gallery on wheels.

Basically, you ride a two person pod that has two laser guns attached to it along with a screen that shows you how many points you have. Your task is to hit targets with the letter “Z” on them. Different targets are worth different points. And, as you’ve probably guessed, you have to accumulate as many points as you can.

What is interesting about this ride, beyond the shooting, is that the Disney staff loading you onto the pods don’t tell you about specific goals (points) you should reach for. Nor did I see any Leader boards anywhere. I did see people taking pictures of the screen where their total points is displayed. Most likely they were going to share this with their friends and brag about it.

It is a fun and exhilarating ride. Very different that just sitting there and looking at your surroundings. But…ask me what I remember about what I saw inside. Not much.

I do remember where I saw those “Z” targets I had to shoot at. I don’t remember much of what was around that. Interesting right?

Context matters

Here’s the issue at hand and how it relates to our ability to innovate: we must be able to focus intently on our goal/objective, but we must also take a step back and gain perspective. I’ve talked about this before, to focus really hard on noticing things (for example people smiling), all you have to do is program yourself to do exactly that and ignore everything else. This isn’t difficult at all. It is what most modern organizations want and get their employees to do.

But, taking the smiling example further, by only focusing on smiles you’ll lose context and won’t be able to understand why people are smiling.

For us humans, this is a challenge. We have a tendency, it gets stronger when in group-think, to fall into tunnel vision. This is why framing a challenge or goal in a way that makes you think about it differently is so important. Too narrow and people may lose perspective. Too wide and people won’t have direction.

When pursuing goals, for example, we may fall into bad behaviors in the pursuit of those goals. This is a big “no-no” if you want to set out and change the game. And, as I said above, context matters, even for goals. Personally, I find it very difficult, when talking with a prospect about their issues, to just focus on one issue that they are dealing with. Because problems/issues don’t live in isolation, and are rarely the result of one single driver, I tend to look beyond the obvious.

Bottom line: If you’re told what to look for, you can’t see anything else…Creativity isn’t a switch the majority can flip at will, so the key to being innovative is to view a problem from a different perspective. To do this, you have constantly zoom-out and back in. Remember, there’s more than meets the eye.

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