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How to Spot Your Innovation Blind Spot

Did you know that the iPhone and the iPad, two monumental innovations, were once dismissed as insignificant? They fell within the industry's innovation blind spot, overlooked due to bias and fear of the unknown.

Phil McKinney
Phil McKinney
4 min read
How to Spot Your Innovation Blind Spot

We all have blind spots in different areas of our lives. For example, while driving, there are areas around your car that you cannot see, whether it's on the sides or behind the car. The same applies to innovation. We all have areas where we are unaware, uninformed, prejudiced, or unappreciative of certain things, and this makes it difficult to recognize an innovation. This is referred to as an innovation blind spot.

What is an Innovation Blind Spot?

An innovation blind spot is a situation where we fail to recognize innovations that would otherwise be viable or highly successful. This occurs because of our inability to see past our biases or lack of knowledge in a particular field. The result is that we miss out on the opportunity to innovate in that area, losing out to competitors who were more receptive to that innovation.

What Causes an Innovation Blind Spot?

There are several underlying actors that contribute to the creation of innovation blind spots.

One of these is organizational culture. If an organization values tradition over innovation, or if it encourages conformity and discourages taking risks, it's likely that innovation blind spots will develop. A culture that doesn't reward or recognize creative thinking can stifle innovation and make it difficult to see outside the established norms.

Another significant factor is the fear of failure. The process of innovation inherently involves taking risks, and the fear of failure can create a significant blind spot. This fear can prevent individuals and organizations from pursuing innovative ideas, even when they show great potential.

Cognitive biases also play a considerable role in creating innovation blind spots. Confirmation bias, for example, can lead us to favor information that confirms our existing beliefs or ideas, leading us to overlook or ignore potentially innovative ideas that challenge our current view.

Lastly, an organization's lack of thinking style and experience diversity can also lead to innovation blind spots. When a team is composed of individuals with similar backgrounds, experiences, and ways of thinking, it can result in a narrow perspective that overlooks innovative ideas or solutions that may be apparent to others with different experiences or viewpoints.

"Even the brightest stars were once lost in the cosmos, just as the greatest innovations were once unseen in the blind spots of the unimaginative."

Why Are Innovations Hard to Recognize in Your Blind Spot?

Innovations are hard to recognize when they are in our blind spots because we are not actively looking for them. It is akin to not seeing something outside the range of our vision. Innovations that are not in our purview are simply not on our radar, and we do not direct our attention to them. This means we do not see the opportunities in front of us, so we cannot capitalize on them.

Even if we are aware of the potential innovation, it's difficult to recognize because our current knowledge and experience may not provide us with the context or perspective to identify it. This means that even though an innovative idea is presented to us, we might not fully appreciate its value or understand how it can benefit our organization.

How To Avoid Being Surprised By Your Innovation Blind Spot

First and foremost, avoid cognitive biases by opening up your mind to new ideas and concepts. Be curious and invest in learning about new industries, trends, and technologies. Additionally, be aware of your own biases and prejudices when making decisions, so you can correct yourself before making the wrong decisions. Cultivate a culture of innovation that encourages all employees to think outside the box and develop new ideas.

Secondly, fostering diversity within your team is essential in avoiding innovation blind spots. By incorporating a wide array of backgrounds, experiences, and thinking styles in your team, you ensure a rich tapestry of ideas and perspectives that can spark innovation. Encourage collaboration and open discussions, where every voice is heard and every idea is given due consideration.

Thirdly, adopt a risk-taking mindset. Accept that failure is a part of the innovation process. Instead of fearing it, view it as a learning opportunity, a stepping stone towards success. This approach can help you venture into unexplored territories and discover hidden innovation gems.

Lastly, stay informed about new trends and advancements in your industry. Regularly attending webinars, reading relevant publications, and engaging in industry forums can help you stay at the forefront of innovation. This proactive approach gives you a better chance of spotting potential innovation in your blind spot before it becomes a missed opportunity.

Examples of Innovations That Were in Innovation Blind Spots

Some examples of innovations that were once in blind spots include the iPhone and the iPad. Many in the industry were skeptical of their potential success at the time of their release, while others did not even consider mobile phones or tablets worth pursuing. However, Apple saw an opportunity for innovation in these areas and capitalized on them to create two of the most successful products in history. By recognizing their blind spots and investing in innovations that others overlooked, Apple gained a significant competitive advantage.

Another example is the development of driverless cars. Before Google developed its own self-driving car in 2007, most people, including established auto manufacturers, did not even contemplate the possibility. It was a far-fetched idea that posed too many technical and legal challenges to pursue. However, with technological advancements and innovation, autonomous vehicles have now become a reality.


Innovation is the lifeblood of any business, and it is essential to remain agile and adaptable to change. To achieve this, it is crucial to identify and prevent innovation blind spots through learning, open-mindedness, experimentation, and collaboration. By doing so, you will be better positioned to spot emerging trends and opportunities in your industry and take advantage of them to drive your business forward. The key is always to be curious and never stop learning.

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Phil McKinney Twitter

Phil McKinney is an innovator, podcaster, author, and speaker. He is the retired CTO of HP. Phil's book, Beyond The Obvious, shares his expertise and lessons learned on innovation and creativity.


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