Startup general interest

Blind spots and personal comfort zones

By September 4, 2013 No Comments

In a short interview with the New York Times, Francisco D’Souza (Frank), CEO of Cognizant (Fortune 2013 rank #352)  said the following:

The lesson I learned is that when you have to evolve that quickly as a person, you need to be aware of two things. One is personal blind spots and the other is personal comfort zones. Those two things can be real gotchas.

It’s very hard to see your blind spots, by definition, and it’s very easy to fall into comfort zones, because people like patterns and a sense of familiarity. I’ve tried consciously to say, “What are the tools I can use to identify these blind spots and push through comfort zones?” And I always tell myself that if I wake up in the morning and feel comfortable, I’m probably not pushing myself hard enough.

This is great advice. The question is how. D’Souza does it by talking with peers to see their blindspots as a way of learning about his own, and by using a personal coach. This is good advice for startup CEOs too, and while most won’t be able to afford a personal coach, they can use mentors and board members in a similar way.

The other way to become aware of blind spots and comfort zones is to watch out for times when there are disagreements which have no obvious root cause. Good examples are when you are looking at the same data as other people and reaching different conclusions. You may be right, of course, but you may be being blinded by bias. My point is that when situations like this come up it’s smart to reflect on why rather than simply assume that the other person is an idiot. Other examples are when you consistently over-estimate or under-estimate outcomes. A common one is to over-estimate how key metrics will move in the next month or quarter. Once again, if that happens to you it’s smart to reflect on why.