A Blindspotting Analysis Tool

Devised by James Greyson (Head of BlindSpot Think Tank)

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Blindspotting Analysis

Large persistent problems, such as waste, climate change, austerity, inequality, loss of nature and armed conflict, are embedded in large complex systems. We tend to adapt familiar ways of thinking about possible solutions. This means that our habits of thought can conceal the most effective solutions from us. The bigger and more overwhelming the problem, the more we tend to look at symptoms or details of the problem, rather than taking a fresh look at their underlying causes and systemic possibilities. We propose changes that are psychologically comfortable to us so we actually respond by avoiding the the complexity that we must learn to manage. The BLIS tool encourages more ambitious 'whole system' solutions by reversing the usual assumption that we know the solutions and people just need to get on with applying them.

The blindspotting method involves asking ourselves the following questions:

  • B = Blindspots. What are we missing? What are the systemic errors of the faulty system and why have the familiar solutions not worked?
  • L = Levers. Where can action shift the whole system? What would a systemic solution change in perceptions, worldviews, incentives and behaviours?
  • I = Imagining. What are the key patterns defining the new system? Perhaps the complex interconnectedness can be switched so that elements that caused problems will instead solve them?
  • S =Synergies. How would multiple benefits self-organise in this change? How to show vested-interests that they too are better off in the proposed new system dynamic?

An aspect of blindspotting is the important role of language that enables us to notice certain things, while overlooking others. Biosemioticians (e.g. von Uexküll) note that many creatures inhabit the same ecosystem but do not appear to live in the same sensory environmental reality (see Umwelt) because they do not share the same sensory organs. However, in human cultures we can augment our senses using technological gadgets. We can also consciously expand our cognitive horizons by expanding the affordances of our language systems.

As an example of blindspotting, these slides describe 'precycling' as new language to shift the habit of managing waste after it's made. Precycling is used to design a new economic tool that can be used to switch markets from causing to solving a wide range of ecological problems.

Follow James on Twitter: @blindspotting