OPINION | Different eyes can mean a better prize

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HAGÅTÑA — I’ve known business people who take on projects based on their opinion only, and others who won’t proceed until they gain the thoughts and perspectives of many others. In my career, I’ve done it both ways.

I prefer collaboration, acknowledging that it brings one clear advantage and one clear disadvantage. The downside is that you can’t move as quickly to greenlight a project. The upside is that getting more minds involved often gives you a much clearer picture of the true opportunity when you do move forward.

How black can black be?

In Sept. 2019, an article in Fast Company magazine reported: “Vantablack took the world by storm for being the blackest black known to humankind. Its carbon nanotube surface — a nano-scale forest of billions of tiny carbon trees — absorbs up to 99.964% of light striking it.”

Photons, which are what light is made of, can’t penetrate it. An observer described it as so dark “it feels like part of your soul is being sucked out through your eyeballs.”

Now to answer the question posed, “How black can black be?” While the rest of the world was being shocked by Vantablack, MIT scientists discovered a black that is technically 10 times darker.

To highlight their findings they coated a 16.78-carat yellow diamond with it.

The $2 million diamond is rated as the most brilliant material on earth. The new black made the diamond basically disappear.

An outsider led to the discovery

The twist to the story is that the scientists responsible for creating the new blackest black weren’t trying to do so. They were testing another layer of carbon nano tubes, to see if it would work better in commercially profitable applications such as electronics and microprocessors. Even small improvements there can be worth many millions, perhaps billions of dollars.

They had invited an artist into their group, and he wasn’t focused on the same things the scientists were considering. Instead, he was looking at optical properties, the blackness and what that would mean. He saw that the new substances appeared blacker than the existing material, and that led to the breakthrough.

The fact that the team had found a substance that broke the existing record for the blackest black was fine, but the scientists had another realization. It was that the artist was the one who actually influenced the science. “Without that collaboration,” said one scientist, “We wouldn’t have looked.”

Seeing through different eyes

Scientists and artists see the world through different lenses. The artist was drawn to the visuals immediately. He had “new eyes” and saw what the others could not.

What goes on around us every day that our eyes are so used to, we really don’t see anymore? What has our brain masked from our consciousness that is now basically invisible to us, yet would be seen right away by a casual observer visiting our home, or office?

Brands use this strategy

Manufacturers commonly use focus groups to help guide decisions in product development and marketing. The information they pick up in Q&A sessions can drive changes and improvements.

While these brands certainly spend much of this effort with their primary customers, some reach out to people who are not buyers to get opinions they won’t otherwise learn. A word, a thought, could result in something useful. If so, it’s dirt cheap research.

Don’t just talk to fans

Some marketers want to survey only happy customers/users, and their most loyal supporters. While that practice will bring glowing reports that the strategy and approach is brilliant and effective, it doesn’t likely bring answers on how to get better, or generate the next breakthrough idea.

I’ve had conversations with leaders who are more interested in what their detractors have to say. One of them once told me, “Critics tell us much more than our fans do.”

As mentioned, those unfamiliar with what you do or make can also give you valuable insights.


The private sector, from large companies to mom & pop stores, can use this concept. Same with government agencies and even military units.

Could there be a breakthrough waiting because someone is seeing you with a new set of eyes?

Jerry Roberts presents the 2020 Live2Lead Conference, with John Maxwell and a lineup of world-class speakers. Online delivery and unique opportunities for your team are available. Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for details.

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