Hindsight People Are Useless

I met a manager recently who stated, “I have no use for hindsight people.”

Naturally, this statement made me curious. Hindsight is an important part of learning, so why is it useless?

So I asked him, “how do you learn from your mistakes?”

He responded with a smile and said, “YOU are not a hindsight person. Learning is something you do to move forward. You are a foresight person.”

So I had to think about this…

Who is a hindsight person vs. a foresight person?

By definition, hindsight is understanding a situation only after it has developed. If you take out retrospective learning, than this is really taking everything at face value.

Here is an example: “How is the weather?”

  • Hindsight person: “it’s sunny.”
  • Foresight person: “it’s sunny, but I can see clouds in the distance. It may rain later.”
  • Hindsight person after it rains: “well…there were clouds in the distance.”


You see? Hindsight people only take the current and overtly obvious information to guide their actions. They technically see the clouds coming, but they do not change their behavior to accommodate the predictive data.

I find a good amount of business people living in this hindsight world.

Take Borders and Barnes and Noble as an example. They were in the same business and both held great reputations…so why is Barnes and Noble alive and Borders dead?

While I don’t have any inside scoop, I think its fair to say that Barnes and Noble had foresight. They invested in cafes, reading areas, drastically expanded their games and novelties, created the Nook, and jumped on the Ebook scene almost instantly. They even took a marketing stance that they split revenue fairly with authors, something Amazon did not do at that time, to set them apart from their biggest competition.

They saw the writing on the wall and positioned themselves to meet the changing market demands.

Borders, with the same information, didn’t change. They looked at the new technology and thought that people will always need bookstores. They have for hundreds of years, right?….wrong!

I see this level of blind optimism from people in leadership roles.

They pump false positivity into their teams to motivate them because they think motivation alone will make the numbers, not market demand. Certainly, sometimes sales teams need a new sense of focus, but when the numbers are off because the market is changing, it must be a different conversation.

Instead, sales managers stand in a room of people and say things like, “Well, we are below quota right now, but we just need to buckle down and chop some wood!” They have this idea that telling people to work harder is going to fix the market demand.

More so, those sales people who have been busting their asses? They typically understand exactly what is happening because they have had the conversations with clients. They know what they are selling isn’t cutting it anymore. Without real and honest solutions, the company who already lost market share and client demand will then lose their best A-Players.

It’s a fate we have all seen time and time again. And I think my sales manager friend is right; these sales managers are hindsight people.

I like foresight leaders.

Back in 2008, I was a program director in the department of continuing education in FLORIDA, the heart of the 2008 shit storm. As the events of 2008 started to unfold, my team of leaders called an emergency meeting to review the budget and operations. The next day, an email went out to the entire staff and faculty asking for suggestions and anything they could live without. They compiled this information and slashed expenses everywhere but people.

You see, they knew this storm was bad, but it was also temporary. They just needed to stay afloat. And they were hell bent to leave no man or woman behind. So we got cheaper pens; we printed only essential documents; we all took shorter lunches. We cut every luxury or convenience we could, but we kept each other.

The leaders saw the importance of their people. They were the assets they couldn’t lose in the long-term plan. They weathered the storm by using creativity, honesty, open communication, and mostly, foresight. While they were not in the real estate business, they saw the inevitable ripple effect.

I can now tell you from first hand experience, I did not mind losing my Pilot Pens or unlimited printing or employee events, because I had my job and my beloved team.

And to be crystal clear, our leaders gave up the most. They took voluntary pay cuts in addition to the other budget changes. They were in the trenches with everyone else with a clear goal in mind: keep the integrity of the service and the team at all cost.

 When the economy began to rebound, their decisions allowed them to move ahead full throttle. They had their teams ready to go with new ideas and growth, and no down time to hiring and training. And the loyalty and value they demonstrated to their people created a deep trust.

What started as a potentially catastrophic and devastating event, turned into the college’s greatest competitive advantage. While everyone else was rebuilding, they were full force ahead.

So yeah…Hindsight people are useless…I totally agree!

Read more on the importance of good people: Here

Braedi Leigh