Continuing the theme of keeping improvement projects on track, CI leaders should be very careful to avoid falling prey to “theory blindness.”

Theory-blindness is an “expensive” pitfall that extracts a huge economic toll in organizations of all types and sizes. In some cases it leads companies to invest in expensive solutions that completely miss the real cause. In other instances, organizations will live with costly problems for years because of a shared but erroneous theory about the cause of the problem.

Psychologist Daniel Kahneman, (the only non-economist to win the Nobel Prize in Economics) describes the phenomenon in his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow.

The human brain, he illustrates by describing decades of research, is wired to apply a number of biases, theory-blindness being one of them. Understanding the biases gives us the tools to overcome them.

The most powerful mental bias underlying a great deal of the flawed decision making is what he calls: WYSIATI (which is a acronym for “what-you-see-is-all-there-is”). It occurs because we are inordinately influenced by what we see, and greatly undervalue information we do not have. As a result, paradoxically, the less we know, the more sure we are of our conclusions.

Based on research and many years of experience, we’ve determined the best way to avoid theory blindness is to rigorously adhere to an improvement process; one that includes a comprehensive method of identifying and quantifying root causes and the real waste.