Tunnel Vision– Peek-Out From Behind Blinders: Connect with Changing World for Sustained Business Success…

Tunnel vision–You’ve got to think about big things while you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction. ~ Alvin Toffler

Literally, tunnel vision is a loss of peripheral vision or vision impairment. Figuratively, it means you are focused on one goal — the implication is that you’re not seeing the big picture around you. Tunnel vision depends on how you view it, for some; tunnel vision is the ability to focus only on issues that are crucial and relevant to solving a particular problem.

In other words, it’s the ability to ignore a distracting lack of knowledge while doing just enough to solve a problem. Tunnel vision enables you focus better, and lack of focus is main reason why most people don’t succeed, i.e., ability to block out everything on the peripheral and focus only on what’s directly in front of them: Your level of success will be in direct correlation to your focus; more focused you are, the greater your level of success! In contrast, other people equate tunnel vision with the adage about not seeing the forest for the trees.

A person with tunnel vision is so zoned-in on one thing he doesn’t see much else. He is distracted from distraction and is isolated in isolation. He is shut off from other facts by fixation on a single fact. As consequence, people with tunnel vision see only the light at the end of the tunnel, disregarding tunnel walls that keep the massive weight of the outside world from caving in on them.

Here is an analogy; thorough-bred race horses are fixed with blinders in order to minimize distractions during a race. They are focused solely on winning while being, at least somewhat, aware of their surroundings. In much the same way, the best business leaders are those who can process information related to their goals without losing sight of peripheral factors that could affect their organization. They do not allow themselves to be distracted by the noise that surrounds their business, but they can still multitask and respond to organizational demands…

In the article Letting Go: When Visionary Becomes Tunnel Vision by Mike Docherty writes: Innovation is, by its nature, full of risk and unknowns. That’s what makes it so interesting, challenging, and yet utterly uncomfortable for many business leaders. While most aspect of effective business management requires and rewards discipline and steady execution against plans, innovation is different. In spite of the risks, management books and corporate folklore are filled with stories of visionary leaders who ignored the data, the customer, and sometimes common sense to pursue new ideas with which they hold a clear passion, and a clear vision of the future possibilities.

Malcolm Gladwell in his book, ‘Blink’, says; we need to trust our instincts and our sub-conscious minds to make good decisions that we could never realistically evaluate in a conscious rational way — the human mind has an uncanny knack for simplifying the complex and peeling away the irrelevant to reveal the core. Yet for all of the heroic stories of visionary leadership, there are just as many and more frightening stories of vision gone awry.

This leads me to: When does a ‘visionary’ become ‘tunnel vision’ in championing innovation? How can business leaders avoid the ‘false negatives’ of killing potential big ideas too early, while avoiding spending good money after bad in pursuing potentially viable ideas and innovations. How do you know when you’ve gone from ‘visionary’ to ‘tunnel vision’…?

In the article Tunnel Vision – ‘In the End, There is Only Flux’  by Freek Vermeulen writes: Our studies on ‘performance of companies’ suggests; especially for very successful firms, that these companies have trouble staying successful and adapting to changing conditions, more than others: Which we call the success trap, competency traps, or Icarus paradox. Research by Allen Amason, University of Georgia, and Ann Mooney, Stevens Institute of Technology, for example; showed that CEOs from firms that are having very good  success  were significantly more likely to interpret changes in their business environment as threat, in contrast to CEOs of poor performing companies, who often interpreted the changes as a positive thing.

This is understandable: If you are the top performer in your industry, any change looks like a threat, because things can only get worse; you like things just the way they are; thank you very much! In contrast, if you currently look like a loser since you’re the CEO of a company that is not performing very well, in comparison to your peers, then any change is welcome.

‘Amason and Mooney’ showed that, as consequence; top managers of high performing companies were much less aggressive in formulating plans for strategic change; they didn’t spend as much time or effort evaluating potential alternative courses of action. These executives were more passive in their actions for affecting change; they ignore the situation, continue with status-quo, and overall resist change.

However, as the business conditions continue to deteriorate, ignoring them just makes the problems worse. I guess you can call this the old-fashioned tunnel vision: When your company is hugely successful, you don’t want the world to change, however, when you are forced to innovate and implement change; e.g., new technology, or whatever it is that is rocking your world... then, you try to squeeze it into your own version of reality, rather than accept the reality as it actually exists. But, business reality is that one day all industry dominants must change or fail.

According to Heraclitus, centuries ago, he wrote; In the end, everything is in flux, nothing abides, everything flows, nothing stays fixed, everything is constantly changing and nothing stays the same…

In the article Social Media Tunnel Vision by Nora McFarland writes:  We can’t seem to get away from it no matter how much we try, and that is; social media tunnel vision. Humans can be creatures of habit and that means, if you’re using the same tool or medium all the time; you are unlikely to change: Which leads me to my thought about the so-called social media tunnel vision. When we are talking about businesses that invest in social media, we need to think outside of the box.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that you should be involved with all the social media platforms, because that’s just not realistic (unless you have the man-power to do so). You should, however, concentrate on where your market and the people you want to reach are hanging-out the most. Do consider, though, that your market, over-time, is branching out to other social media platforms and channels. Thus, I suggest, likewise, you should also be branching-out and keeping pace with your market(s),  people, partners… Here are a few questions that you should be considering:

  • Is being on Facebook reaching your target audience?
  • Is LinkedIn better suited for your needs?
  • Is Google + another alternative for your way of networking?
  • Should you consider Geo-locating apps, i.e. FourSquare, FB Places…?
  • Perhaps a blog?
  • Will Twitter help or hinder your social media strategy?

In the article How Marketing is Pursuing Tunnel Vision by Emily R. Coleman writes: Marketing, almost by definition, follows trends. Marketers must be well-informed; know how people’s interests change, know how forms of communication are evolving, know how products and services fit into an economic landscape that is continually rearranging itself. Not to do so is to become irrelevant. But, there is a profound difference between following and understanding trends and becoming trendy.

Marketing, I fear, is taking itself down the path to trendy. Worse, I suspect that its head-long rush to organize and re-organize along current lines of fashion will make it unwieldy and difficult to respond when the fashions change: Fashions always change. For example, we are currently consumed by social media marketing. Certainly, social media platforms and channels are very important element to reach and understand our audience.

But, I question the breathless acceptance  of social media platforms as if they were ‘holy grail’ of marketing. We’ve seen ‘holy grails’ before. We are currently consumed by the need to carve more and more specializations and niches within marketing. For example; customer engagement, mobile marketing, social media management, and there seems to be a driving force toward increased areas of decreased responsibility. Specialization makes communicating to marketplaces, with a singular, coherent voice, and focused message, that much harder.

Also, there is the ever-popular ‘let’s keep current by reading books by others in our field’Yes, it’s important to know what other pros in your business are saying and thinking. But I would suggest that we would be much better marketers, if we are more diversified in our thinking by boarding global knowledge; e.g., read psychology, anthropology, history, and science, and yes (dare say) novels... and less listening to what marketers are saying to other marketers. Wouldn’t we all be much better marketers, if instead of fine-tuning our tunnel vision, we broadened our outlook?

Common sense says ‘don’t put all of your eggs into one basket’. Uncommon sense says ‘put all your eggs into one basket and watch that basket like a hawk’. According to adam; diversification means a division of attention. It means complication. It means complexity. We already have too much complexity in lives. Modern technology has made things busier rather than easier. We don’t need more complexity we need more simplicity.

Tunnel vision equals simplicity. Forget about all the superfluous stuff floating around the edges of your vision: Put blinkers-on. Focus unwaveringly on your ultimate vision, your ultimate goal. Successful people have tunnel vision. They remove the waste and focus only on what they have to focus on. They don’t concern themselves with anything that won’t contribute to their ultimate goal. However, according to frank; tunnel vision can be killer of business.

Tunnel vision is a common metaphor for narrowness of focus that causes failure to see the big picture. Acting with blinders-on is another way of expressing tunnel vision. A manager who operates with tunnel vision or with blinders-on can ruin a company by concentrating on a narrow view of reality, ignoring both risks and opportunities.

Tunnel vision is often combined with the metaphor– the light at the end of a tunnel is an oncoming train. So, managers must be alert to warning signs that tunnel vision is hampering business goals. According to Mark Fallon; we read business books that emphasize focus: Focus on the strengths. Focus on the core business. But what happens if you’re too focused? People may direct so much attention on particular problem that they miss everything else. If you have tunnel vision, you can’t see the big picture. 

The solution is to strike balance between the task at hand, and the environment around you. Maintaining balance isn’t a single action, but constant awareness of your situation. Narrow views can divert attention from the most important issue; the success of the company. Hence, from time-to-time, step back; survey surrounding, gage your bearings, then take the necessary actions to grow and sustain  your business– sometimes with tunnel vision and sometimes with funnel vision…

One of the lessons your management has learned and, unfortunately, sometimes re-learned, is the importance of being in businesses where tailwinds prevail rather than headwinds. ~Warren Buffett