Wilful Blindness

Posted by Kirsten Gibbs on May 22, 2020
  • I’ve just finished reading this book, the first of 3 I ordered after hearing Margaret Heffernan on the radio last week.

    It’s a worrying and challenging read, exploring and explaining just how naturally easy it is for we humans not to see what’s in right in front of our eyes.

    The reasons are varied, from feelings of affinity or love, wanting to fit in or please people in authority, too rigid systems, distance and disconnection, the bystander effect, a narrow focus on money or sheer cognitive overload and exhaustion.   Sometimes, in the worst scenarios, such as Grenfell Tower or Texas City, several reasons combine and exacerbate each other.

    The answer is to make ourselves see better. Systematically, intentionally, but never mechanically.

    We do that by encouraging diversity of thinking and argument, by thanking whistleblowers, complainers and critics instead of sidelining them.

    We do it by constantly reminding ourselves of what we are in business to do – to make and keep promises to human beings, our customers, and by eliminating the hierarchies, silos and long chains of command that get in the way of that.

    We do it by creating transparent ways of working that keep our promise visible and support people to hold each other accountable as human beings for seeing what’s really there, and acting on it.

    And of course the irony is that if we do these things well, we will create more value and do better financially.  Because its not only bad things we make ourselves wilfully blind to, its also opportunities.

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