Sunday, 17 August 2014

Dare to Disagree [Antidotes to Willful Blindness]

I loved this talk by Margaret Heffernan:

It seems "willful blindless" is a human condition, ie, it is not a function of intelligence, upbringing or culture. Specifically, most people are hard wired to be obedient, and we know from bystander theory that the more people who see something going wrong, the less likely someone is to intervene. 

In her research, over 85-percent of people surveyed at companies claim they are either afraid to speak up or believe it is futile. So is the job of the leader to create conditions in which the smart employees are willing and able to speak up if they see something wrong? I think so. If we do this, we have lower the chance of making life threatening business decisions.

Some of her suggested antidotes to willful blindness:

  1. Hire for real diversity, not just political correctness. Bias has a biological basis. Our brains prefer information and people that are familiar. We are confident in people who are like us; they confirm us and our beliefs, but what we really need is people who are different than us with different thinking styles and backgrounds.
  2. Humility: Leadership that is humble and confident enough to listen those who speak out intelligentally.
  3. Curiosity: In execution mode, we develop tunnel vision, especially if we are surrounding by people who think like us. We also need curious people – people whose minds wander and whose brains are supple.
  4. Nurture safe environments to allow people to ask hard questions and enable structured debate around answering those.

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