Denial, and where it gets us

At a time of a major crisis in the historic child abuse being uncovered in football’s youth teams and the woeful current handling of the issue by various clubs board members, I found this week a business book on the issue of denial with a refreshingly honest approach. The extract below is an excellent summary.

Denial is a book by Richard S. Tedlow in 2010 that confronts why we sometimes choose to ignore or deny something we know. 

Choosing not to know is a human trait and it helps us in the short term, for example in times of grief. But long term it is a problem.

The book is in two parts: firms that failed in a crisis; and firms that successfully tackled a major crisis and survived.

A good case study is Johnson & Johnson which faced customer deaths in the USA from medicine tampering in the 1980s and here the company board responded in a model manner with excellent ethics and leadership.


How best to deal with corporate denial:

  1. Don’t wait for the crisis to peak
  2. Acknowledge and confront the facts
  3. Encourage team straight talking and comms
  4. Lead from the top
  5. Think long-term
  6. Don’t trash talk the issue or the opposition
  7. Tell the truth
  8. Be unconventionally right. 

“Denial: Why Business Leaders Fail to Look Facts in the Face — and What to Do About It.” Richard S. Tedlow, 2010.

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