The Secret of Invisibility

Updated: Aug 18, 2021

As a consultant, I spend considerable time thinking about the invisible. Whether they realize it or not, my clients hire me because I can see what is invisible to them. Having been raised with ethical mid-Western values, I feel it only appropriate that I give them their money's worth. Honestly, that is the easy part of consulting. The hard part is convincing them that what I see is real because it often remains invisible to them.

In his book "Out of the Crisis," W. Edwards Deming relates a story of one company which had hired him. The CEO insisted that before Deming began, he must first understand all about the business. To this assertion, Deming pointed out that the men then employed by the company already understood the business and yet had no idea what was causing the problems. Knowing all about the business would not help Deming determine the issues. The point Deming makes is that he was hired to perceive the invisible, which remained hidden from those who saw everything about the business. 

This predicament is the consultant's paradox. In Greek mythology, Cassandra was given the power to know the future but cursed that no one would believe her prophecies. This myth is one of the reasons a Google search for "Cassandra Consulting" returns over four million results. We are hired to see the unseen, then dismissed if no one believes what we have seen. Two years ago, I gave a grim prediction to a good CEO, which unfortunately occurred last week. 

All that said, I promised you the secret to invisibility, which is simple. Invisibility defines the stuff no one wishes to see. The more people there are who do not want to recognize a thing, the more invisible that thing becomes. Pride, greed, and sloth do not explain invisibility. Typically, invisibility results from desperation.

We've all had a friend romantically involved with someone, yet unable to see the obvious red flags. Usually, these people are so desperate for love that they refuse to acknowledge the warnings. We have all read about the Nigerian email scams and wondered how greedy people must be to fall for such an obvious scam. Usually, those victims have worked too hard for too long and are desperate for some comfort. We have all heard the madness of people blinded by the lies of other political parties. They are not stupid. Usually, they need the hope the party offers. 

Erasmus published a book in 1500 which included the proverb, "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king." Consulting is usually about helping people who are not blind, they just refuse to open their eyes. I said before the difficult part of my job is convincing people of what I see. It starts by saying, "It will be OK. Just open your eyes look."

What is invisible to you? What are you refusing to see? What truth are you desperate to avoid? It will be OK. Just open your eyes look.