3 Causes of a Team’s Tunnel Vision & 1 Way Out

I have two vivid examples in my past – once as a consultant and another as an entrepreneur pitching for investment- where I got confronted with tunnel vision around the table. And if you are like me, a person who trusts by default, it feels strange to realise at some point you are stuck in a tunnel with other people looking over your shoulder, not hearing you, with no opportunity to get out, and incidentally, the realisation that the team members are not aware they are stuck in a tunnel too…

Sounds familiar?

Tunnel Vision is the tendency to focus too narrowly on a single approach or solution and neglect alternative ideas. You will be confronted with it as a convener, a networker, a CEO, a team leader, or a board whisperer… at work and during family dinners too…

Here are the top three causes

Confirmation Bias: Team members lean towards information that confirms their existing ideas and discount anything that contradicts them. For instance: Imagine a marketing team, that champions a new video feature in an app and focuses on positive feedback and anecdotes about users enjoying the feature. They downplay or dismiss negative feedback like comments about the feature feeling unoriginal or poorly integrated with the existing platform, and stop exploring further. You will hear: “This is working great, see? We know exactly how this will pan out so let’s deploy this now.

Groupthink: Team members are tired (afraid?) of conflict, crave harmony and peace and are therefore reluctant to challenge the most dominant viewpoint (A CEO, the person who holds the power, the most extrovert manager, your investor?).

For instance, we‘ll follow the charismatic well-spoken leader, the one who always brings the money, the one with the most “friends”… We’ll fall for the illusion of unanimity, the smokescreen of early adoption…

Time Pressure: When time is up and you’ve got to deliver, teams might prioritize speed over thoroughness and drown in denial. We assume pausing to reflect is a luxury we can’t afford. This often leads to an overlook of the potential flaws in an initial approach or the negation of entirely new ways of tackling the problem.

The consequences?

  • Missed opportunities for better solutions.
  • Increased risk of project failure.
  • Lower team morale due to a lack of heard ideas.
  • Wasted resources
  • Or even a war in the Middle East…

Let me explain: Nancy Kline pointed recently to an episode of “The Political Scene”’s podcast from The New Yorker, where the journalists talked about the US invasion of Iraq. Bush, US President at the time, “never convened his advisory cabinet to go round the table to get people’s honest thinking, and no one considered the efficacy of the assumptions that were fuelling the drive to war”.

Coming to the point

I’d like to invite you to take 3 minutes to tap into your imagination. Recall a recent meeting with “Tunnel Vision” you might have attended in your work. Imagine how different things could have turned out if, on that day, people in the room had had…

  1. A genuine sense that people in the room were considered equal
  2. The encouragement to bring up their most honest unfinished reflection. In that alternative scenario, people would know they are part of the group’s effort to come to one collectively formed conclusion (not a wonky awkward dominant way out) within a timeframe that allows for co-creativity, not co-reactivity
  3. The time to explore their thinking in the company of a group that gives their most generative attention, that doesn’t judge nor interrupt them

One way out of the tunnel

If you find it important and want a way out of the tunnel, I am inviting you to join my next Time to Think Foundation course (certified) on May 21 and 22, online.

We will explore the ten components that turn a team into a Thinking Environment, alongside 8 applications you can use in work or life meetings. You will also get a 1-2-1 Personal Thinking Partnership session on he topic of your choice before the course. This will help you explore how leaders can become a Thinking Environment for others.

Switch on imagination

If you knew that you could smash this tunnel and fuel your team with exquisite attention, generating true, liberating assumptions, what would change for you, as a convener, a networker, a CEO, a founder, a team leader, or a board whisperer?

To find more info about the course on 21 and 22 May 9:30 am to 4 pm UK BST and to book, go to https://servanemouazan.co.uk/time-to-think-foundation-course

Attend a Free Q&A Session this week on April 25th if you have questions!
Thursday 25 April – 12 pm – 12:45 pm UK BST – Free

Book your spot: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZMpcO-orTwtEteb66p6vrVgZAkcalTYZQc_#/registration



Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt