The cost of denial

Richard Tedlow, an historian and a professor at Harvard Business School, has a new book out: “Denial: Why Business Leaders Fail to Look Facts in the Face – and What to Do About It”.

In an interview with Martha Lagace, Tedlow defines denial as:

… “the unwillingness to acknowledge and deal with reality. It is the choice—sometimes willful, sometimes unconscious, often semiconscious—to enter an “as if” world, to act “as if” facts are not facts because they are difficult to face.”

The lessons Tedlow offers parallel those for dealing with disruptive innovations. Empowering middle managers and heeding “weak signals” can help right a company whose strong corporate culture fosters denial.

The interview ends with an except from a chapter entitled, “They just didn’t believe these things were happening.” Reading Tedlow’s work, I thought of the slow decline in the newspaper business over a 60-year span. The signs were all there, if we had chosen to believe them.

I also thought of the recent efforts of a coalition of larger publishers to convince the world that magazines “don’t have a consumer problem; they have an advertiser problem”. As I’ve written, that doesn’t quite ring true to me. Here’s hoping the denial shoes have not found publishing feet.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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