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Seeing Is Believing

Optimize Blog - May 15, 2012 - 0 comments

A bionic eye – or – more accurately, a retinal implant has been invented by scientists at Stanford University in California. Implants currently used in patients need to be powered by a battery but this new bionic eye is powered by light.
The new device uses a special pair of glasses to beam near infrared light into the eye which powers the implant and sends the information which could help a patient see. The glasses are needed as natural light is 1,000 times too weak to power the implant.
The Stanford researchers say their method could be a step forward by “eliminating the need for complex electronics and wiring”. The retinal implant, which works in a similar way to a solar panel, is fitted in the back of the eye.
A pair of glasses fitted with a video camera records what is happening before a patient’s eyes and fires beams of near infrared light on to the retinal chip. This creates an electrical signal which is passed on to nerves.
Because the bionic creation is thin and wireless, the surgical procedure is much simpler than in other retinal prosthetic approaches and researchers think that this new development promises the restoration of useful vision to patients blinded by degenerative retinal diseases.
You might think that this is a good way to link into a blog about creating a vision but we were thinking more about seeing as a leader sees. For us, an essential characteristic of leadership is the ability to see things differently – an ability which illustrates the importance of vision over short-sightedness.
One of our favourite stories of leaders seeing things differently is the example often quoted concerning Tom Watson Jr., the CEO of IBM between 1956 and 1971. Watson repeatedly demonstrated his abilities as a leader and the story in question concerned a young executive who having made some bad and costly decisions was summoned to Watson’s office where he fully expected to be fired. As he entered the office the young executive said “I suppose after that set of mistakes you will want to fire me….”
Watson was said to reply “Not at all young man, we have just spent a couple of million dollars educating you.”
A characteristic of leadership is to see things differently. Seeing mistakes as an investment in learning is a great example.
Things that get in the way of us seeing things differently include our obsession with more data, more analysis, more measurement and more process which leaves little space for intuition, creativity and the bigger picture. We look to employ people who are masters of the spreadsheet, rather than for their different skills and experiences. It is a recipe by which companies will converge to sameness, for incrementalism, and ultimately for irrelevance.
Ask Kodak, the market leader in photographic film for many decades, who within a handful of years found that their market had disappeared, swallowed up by alien digital worlds led by the likes of Sony and HP. They had not even been on their radar screen, until it was too late.
The essence of leadership is to apply intelligence in a more imaginative way. Imagination is required to see the uncharted waters, the bigger picture, to drive more sustainable innovation and differentiation.
Recent research shows that companies led by a leader that sees the complex interaction of external drivers generate 5.9% better shareholder returns than those led by people with an inside-out, operational perspective.
Seeing things differently sets apart the good from the great. They have yet to develop an implant that you can buy to deliver the sight of a leader and so until that happens it’s going to take some practice…….

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