Last updated: The genius blind spot: How to help your company know what it doesn’t

The genius blind spot: How to help your company know what it doesn’t


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When people go to a concert, they get to watch star performers who make everything look easy. Fans cheer as the artists deliver memorable life events with practiced perfection. It is easy for people to become star-struck, as they get caught up in the adoration of a performer who seems to know how to singlehandedly push their brand forward.

But behind every great performing artist are dozens or hundreds of specialists who work tirelessly and somewhat invisibly to make it all happen. The inner circle includes songwriters, producers, choreographers, costume designers, and lighting technicians. Beyond that, the group also includes experts in marketing, branding, and customer experience, who contribute their expertise, helping channel the artist’s inspiration to generate maximum entertainment revenue and audience satisfaction.

Their names may never become prominent, but their collective expertise makes the overall performance shine and fills in any gaps in the headliner’s skills and raw talent.

1 + 1 = 11: The arithmetic of disruptive innovation

There are rock stars in the business world too. Many of them work in high tech, many started young, and all of them were able to parlay great ideas and market opportunities into world-changing solutions.

Just like their on-stage counterparts, it is easy to think that some of these genius tech leaders are uniquely responsible for the ongoing success of their companies. But usually, they are not. They possess the core vision, drive, personality, and the lion’s share of talent to bring an idea from inception to fame, but a business needs more than that. Genius leaders may thrive on the sparkle and sizzle of disruptive innovation, but for the enterprise to mature and flourish over the long term, a broader set of supporting players must sustain this person by leveraging what they know, and finding out what they don’t know.

To empower them to do that is the leader’s responsibility.

Knowing what you don’t know

For an organization to consistently generate revenue, it must be able to understand its market by seeing it from all sides. This means quantifying what is known through metrics gained from diligent harvesting of customer activity – from the purchases all the way back in time to the browsing and searching activity. All data is good data.

But knowing the knowable is not enough. True genius comes from helping a team know what is not knowable, either to the customer or to the company itself. This is initiated by talking, listening, researching, and sharing. It is completed by transposing one’s larger than life gift into manageable components, by investing in people, technology, and policies that keep everyone on the same page.

This example, a Johari window, shows a known/not known grid belonging to a retail store.

Analysis of customer activity and feedback will be instrumental in helping the business pour light on its two major blind spots. The first would be the items known to customers but not known to management, such as sales associates’ apparent impatient attitude. But a true black hole would be a quantifiable understanding of how sales associates, the essential ingredient in customer experience are perceived versus the competition.

To know both the known and the unknown, marketing teams, product specialists, and inside sales people – the equivalent of a performing artist’s backstage designers and techs – need digital toolsets to track the indicators and preferences of their buying public. They need to know how many people are coming to a website and how many are clicking on emails. They need to calculate whether marketing investments are making an impact. Metrics give a company the opportunity to tweak the customer experience – in person or online – to always make it relevant and contextual. It is up to the rock star innovator to create a culture where this can happen.

A company can’t succeed as a solo act

If a company loses sight of what its customers want, and if it never tackles difficult concepts such as “not knowing what you don’t know,” those customers will start to drift away. When a high-tech rock star banks on raw talent and drive without investing time to build and nurture a supporting cast of specialists, those people too will drift away.

Genius and ability together are the accelerant of growth and world-changing innovation. But upon attaining the zenith of that initial breakthrough performance, the real entrepreneur must stop and ask, “how can I best leverage my gift?” and the answer is there, just outside the spotlight, in the minds and the hearts of the team who live to make it happen again and again.

Personalization: It’s not magic.
It’s method.
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