Harvard Business School professor Bazerman (Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What’s Right and What to Do About It, 2012, etc.) unspools the many benefits of widening our areas of focus, particularly when it comes to decision-making matters.
“[T]errible things happen when our leaders fail to think about data that are outside their typical focus,” writes the author in this study about how we often remain blind to critical and readily available information when we are deciding to do nearly anything—from taking a taxi to buying a too-good-to-be-true bargain to preventing a terrorist attack. There are countless theories in the field of behavioral psychology regarding the biases that restrict our awareness, but Bazerman is artful at the nonacademic delivery of the fruits of academia. He makes a convincing case for a handful of valuable tools we can deploy to reap the benefit or dodge the bullet, if only we would take the time. First, take a breath and ask yourself what isn’t in the picture, what questions you should be asking. That takes care of issues of inattentiveness. Then, there are the cognitive, organizational and political biases lurking behind our willful ignorance, hopeless optimism, implicit discrimination and omission biases. Sometimes we fail to make the right move simply because we choose not to take the hit for the bad news; or we ignore the bigger picture in considering “the motives of the seller and make inferences based on the seller’s willingness to transact”; or we are duped by misdirection.
As with Sherlock Holmes, Edgar Allan Poe and David Foster Wallace, Bazerman winningly recommends the exigent art of seeing—what is there, what isn’t—with both skepticism and sensitivity.