Ignoring the Truth

I’m really enjoying Don Moyer’s piece on the last page of HBR each month.

This month it is about "fitting facts" to fit your view of the world and what works. He paraphrases an idea from Sydney Finkelstein’s book, Why Smart Executives Fail (pretty good book):

The more successful an enterprise, the more vulnerable it is to the tendency to ingore the truth.

If things are going well, then people actually subconsciously stop seeing information that might indicate they are wrong or should change course.

Moyer suggests actually assigning someone in your organization to look for this stuff. Make sure someone is looking for information that might prove that your most successful program is designed wrong. And then make sure there’s room to actually work through those questions and issues. That’s easier said than done, by the way.


  1. 18.06.2006 at 6:08 pm

    Jamie, while I absolutely agree that successful enterprises have difficulty seeing the truth, I would submit that unsuccessful organizations also must confront the denial that prevents them from giving up the strategies and projects that are dragging them down.
    I think that Moyer’s work-around of assigning someone to look for information that the organization doesn’t see is a good idea as a temporary measure, but over time every leader must develop the ability to identify and internalize information that disconfirms his or her assumptions and perspectives.