What Ed Catmull of Pixar and Francis Underwood of the White House have in common.

Screen shot 2014-06-18 at 9.00.41 PM


Two men who personify good & evil recently converged on their number one fear: blind spots.


The two men are Ed Catmull, amiable overlord of all things Pixar (and Disney Animation) and Francis Underwood, dark lord of all things D.C. in House of Cards.


Ed Catmull explains his concern for blinds spots in his fantastic book on management and leadership, Creativity, Inc.


Creativity Inc


Next year’s Pixar film will take us into the mind. During the research stage, Catmull learned from director Pete Docter “that only about 40% of what we ‘see’ comes in through our eyes. The rest is made up from memory or patterns that we recognize from past experience.”


That is, our mind works to fill in the blind spots, concealing them.


“We aren’t aware that the majority of what we think we see is actually our brain filling in the gaps.”


Catmull also notes the inverse equation at play that expands blind spots. The higher title, the lower the odds employees will share candid feelings (fears, worries, challenges) with the boss.



Catmull’s solution is more simplistic than creative.

Honor the viewpoints of others.


Listen to what others think & feel.

Allow other people to help fill your blind spots.


Francis Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey in House of Cards, is also obsessed with identifying his blind spots.


With good reason.

When you lie as much as the Veep does, you can’t be too careful about retribution.


Seth Grayson, the Veep’s P.R. man, won the job by digging deep and uncovering one of the Underwoods’ blind spots. Grayson’s job is to eliminate the Underwood blind spots and ruthlessly attack those of the Underwood opponents.


We all have blind spots.


Some blind spots may prohibit the full creative potential of your team.

Others may land you in jail for homicide, extortion and all-around villainy.


On the jobsite, an easy way to eliminate blind spots is enlisting the help of others. By simply being outgoing and likable, others on the job will look out for you when you’re not there. If the majority of workers on your job are Hispanic, well, learn some basic Spanish skills (Hi… How’s it going?… Any problems?… I saw the match against Brazil….) to start building relationships.


You can’t do it alone.


Catmull recommends first admitting you have blind spots.

Underwood recommends ruthless awareness of blind spots followed by their dogged elimination (unsurprising).


Whether it’s the Cars or House of Cards model of blind spot elimination, pick whichever one feels more natural to you and run with it.




Bradley Hartmann is founder and El Presidente at Red Angle (www.redanglespanish.com), a training and consulting firm bridging the English-Spanish (and a bit of Polish…) language gap in the construction industry.

Categories: Jobsite Leadership

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