Boxers sparring with their stronger hand tied behind their back, tennis players serving blindfolded, righty baseball players batting lefty.

Coaches of high-level athletes — and athletes with high potential, as yet unrealized — sometimes deliberately handicap their protégés as part of a training regimen. While these exercises may help build physical strength in otherwise less utilized muscles, the real purpose here is to broaden the mind.

Exercises like these allow the athlete to see what they otherwise cannot, blinded as they are by their own strengths.

The comfort and security that comes from playing to your strengths can be intoxicating and can feel very safe. After all, your strengths are how you got to where you are, whether it’s in the arena or the business world.

That same comfort and security, though, can foster blind spots large enough for an iceberg to crash through. In this case, it’s what you don’t see that can truly damage you.

Blind spots

In the basketball world, a team’s stars may focus so much on their offensive prowess, they lack the cohesion to play effective defense as a group.

In the corporate world, we like to talk, to express ourselves, to get our ideas out into the ether. Studies show there’s a biological reason for this: it feels good. Such activity is “intrinsically rewarding,” according to Harvard researchers.

No wonder, then, that so many people focus so much on themselves, they lack the ability to understand the other person’s point of view. In sport, a crafty opponent will figure out how to overcome your strengths and exploit that big blind spot. In business, this is a recipe for disaster.

Activate your warning system

You can avoid the iceberg by doing the equivalent of playing your sport blindfolded, by developing your touch and feel for nuance, outside the margins of where you normally look. Keep these things in mind:

  • Your eyes can deceive you.
  • Being surrounded by “yes” men and women can deceive you.
  • When you start to believe it, your own PR can deceive you.
  • Without the context of a forest, the trees can deceive you.

Develop that curious streak

At root, avoiding blind spots requires a healthy, strong sense of curiosity about the external world. It’s no wonder research shows that curiosity is more important than intelligence as a predictor of success in the workplace.

Curious employees are naturally inquisitive, open to new experiences, and not only tolerant, but encouraging of different viewpoints. They are also a robust source of creativity and counter-balancing perspective that can provide real, profitable insight.

Curiosity didn’t kill the cat and it won’t kill you! To be highly talented but to lack curiosity will at best hold back your potential and at worst, steer you straight into an iceberg you never saw coming. What people don’t say, what you don’t hear or see, often matters most.

Looking for ways to avoid a frigid collision in your career? You may need to look beyond the comfort zone of your strengths, to develop your weaker muscles and get that curiosity engine running. These are not easy lessons, but they are guaranteed to make you stronger. Talk to me about how you can get there.