Bare-assed Consulting 1.3: The Blindnesses

Blindness
The truly bare-assed consultant is blind, but blind with a twist. Like with cholesterol, blindness comes in both good and bad varieties. The worst of the bad blindnesses comes from being blind that one is blind: unconscious blindness; the best of the good blindnesses emerges from the full acceptance of just how unavoidably blind one is: conscious, bare-assed blindness.

As a truly bare-assed consultant, I can’t hardly help but acknowledge how blind I must be. Blind because I’m here, not there; me, not you; wagging on the tail-end of a lifetime of experience which probably doesn’t qualify as representative, universal, or particularly enlightening. I’m blinded by this shred of enlightenment, almost certain I cannot see even half of what’s before my eyes.

Before, when I was still inflicted with the curse of unconscious blindness, I could muster certainty from scant evidence, and could even swagger with the sour scent of confidence. I knew what nobody could ever know, and I could even goad those less able to deceive themselves into foolhardy acts, claiming to be courageous instead of simply self-deceiving. Once I’d mastered self-deception, I could know no doubt to gain any benefit from. I argued altogether too convincingly. I really believed I knew the answer before any question was asked.

Nobody needs such mastery of the universe with a humble apprentice around. We are all, always, poking sticks into the dark. Once I learned to acknowledge this context, I seemed less likely to poke anybody’s eyes out when searching into their future.

There’s a magical cache associated with every consulting engagement, a sense that the wizard might have entered the room. A hope that gravity might start working with us for a change, that we might be rid of that encumbering curse that’s lately been weighing us down. That this time, time might suspend her inexorable march. That this problem might, finally, be solved. Should the presumed wizard accept this charter, little magic could result.

At the beginning, I tell my clients that before this proposed engagement is completed, a time will come when they will be justified in believing that they’ve hired the most incompetent consultant that ever walked this earth. I will have managed to offend them, apparently misled them, and obviously didn’t know what I was talking about, and should probably be dismissed. In other words, our best laid plans will most probably fall apart, and it will be my fault. It’s what we choose to do then that will determine the success of our engagement. Should we somehow manage to avoid the calamity, we might well consider ourselves smarter than we probably were. Should our inescapable blindness betray us, we might find ourselves most endangered by the clear threat of learning something, something previously unimaginable.

I predict this catastrophe to invite conscious blindness into the engagement, and to chase the bad, unconscious blindness away. What we know we don’t know, we can never mistake for knowledge and never inflate into confidence, and never misrepresent as courage. We might more productively inquisitively whimper forward, if forward’s where we really want to go. And we probably won’t know if we’ve actually gone forward until after we’ve arrived there, never having been there before.

Conscious blindness renders me curious, inquisitive, interested in your story. When I recount what I’m learning about his organization after a morning of interviews, it’s common that I’ve learned quite a bit my client didn’t know. He’s usually quite impressed and asks how I could possibly have uncovered so much. My magic’s simple. Since I’m conscious of how blind I am, I simply, humbly, ask. Then I know more than had I engaged as if I knew what nobody could ever know.

I don’t know much, but I’m learning. No amount of learning could ever fill in my many inevitable blind spots. Since there’s no fixing them, I feature them.

One of the services a bare-assed consultant provides at no charge turns out to be a model for how to live without knowing, how to see well enough without really being able to see, and how to position for success without the usual posturing, posing, and pretending. These serve as dandy antidotes to the certainty-related difficulties underlying almost every client’s complaints.

By far and away, conscious blindness must be the most valuable service a bare-assed consultant provides. Like with many things in life, the box bare-assed consulting comes in turns out to be much more interesting than whatever’s inside. Being bare-assed means living disconcertingly aware of what I can’t ever see back there, and moving forward anyway.

My clients complain about not being able to see the solution until they learn, by watching one humbled servant, that nobody ever sees their solution before stumbling upon it, and that blindly stumbling forward together beats confidently stumbling blindly alone.

©2012 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved














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