Blind spotsPosted: 02/18/2011
Nadav Savio, a Google engineer, wrote this insightful post about Apple, Google, and blind spots:
“It’s been said that Google doesn’t get ‘social’ and, though I think that is vastly overstated, there is truth there. Similarly, I’d say that Apple doesn’t understand the internet. Well I have a simple theory about it. There’s a cliché that everyone’s greatest strength is also their greatest weakness, and I believe that applies as well to organizations as to people. Take Apple. They make amazing, holistic products and services and one of their primary tools is control. Fanatical, centralized control. Control over the design, over the hardware, over the experience. And that’s exactly the opposite of the internet, which is about decentralization and messy, unfiltered chaos. Google, on the other hand, gets the internet, but has trouble with humans. And I’d say it’s not so much because it’s an engineering-heavy organization or that Google doesn’t know how to have fun (both reasons I’ve seen stated publicly). I think it’s that one of Google’s biggest strengths is in search, which is largely about things like precision and recall, about stitching the chaos of the internet into some semblance of order. But social interactions happen in the variance, in the messy spaces that seem meaningless. Much social meaning is carried by phatic communication and that is exactly opposite to what Google does, which is to optimize signal vs. noise, looking for the meaning and discarding the meaningless. Presumably, we can find the undoing of other organizations in their strengths. What, for example, is Microsoft really, really good at? Or Facebook?”
This is a brilliant analysis of two great companies, who are really good at certain things; somehow that greatness meets its limits. This is a good lesson for all of us. We know what we know, and we know what we know we don’t know. However, what we don’t know we don’t know is what kills us. This is our blind spot. Unfortunately, unless you question your assumptions, you will bump into your blind spots, often when you least expect it. It really pays to be open to the possibility that a colleague, a friend, an associate, a supplier, or a stranger might have the insight to open your eyes. Sometimes, when we make mistakes, we wonder why we didn’t recognize it earlier; it may be that we actually could have recognized the error, if only we had been open enough to understand the insight.