Learning | Performance

An Army General’s Advice for Career Shifts: Focus on Blind Spots

woman in the front seat of a car looking back

The future is coming, and getting ready for it isn’t just a matter of more refined thinking, but broadened experiences.

This how the US Army War College helps service people prepare for the future, explained Major General John S. Kem at this year’s NeuroLeadership Summit. “What are the gaps for you to be more ready for uncertainty in five to ten years?” he asked.

In a military context, according to Kem, it’s partly a matter of taking a tank commander and teaching them to bring diplomacy and economics into their decision-making. In organizations, it means that if you want to become a CEO but you’ve spent your career in marketing, you’re going to have to move into operations or another role to round out your perspective.
In other words, it’s all about curing blind spots.

At the NeuroLeadership Institute, we put this in terms of experience bias, or the assumption that if you believe something or an experience happened to you, then that must be the only way it could be. But if you go out and seek new experiences, then you’ll work toward escaping that bias.

As Kem explains, however, it’s not just a matter of being able to “project into your next job,” but gathering the experiences that will expand our perspectives — and, in turn, be more prepared for uncertainty.

That’s a major lesson for managing your own career or designing a talent strategy. It also, we must say, smells a lot like growth mindset: knowing that you can’t possibly know what you need to know from where you are, take the steps to address your blind spots, especially by embracing other disciplines.

For more, watch the NeuroLeadership Summit livestream, broadcasting Thursday and Friday.

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