Margaret Heffernan argues that the biggest threats and dangers we face are the ones we don't see - not because they're secret or invisible, but because we're willfully blind. A distinguished businesswoman and writer, she examines the phenomenon and traces its imprint in our private and working lives, and within governments and organizations, and asks: What makes us prefer ignorance? What are we so afraid of? Why do some people see more than others? And how can we change?
Covering everything from our choice of mates to the SEC, Bernard Madoff's investors, the embers of BP's refinery, the military in Afghanistan, and the dog-eat-dog world of subprime mortgage lenders, this provocative book demonstrates how failing to see - or to admit to ourselves or our colleagues - the issues and problems in plain sight can ruin private lives and bring down corporations.
Heffernan explains how willful blindness develops before exploring ways that institutions and individuals can combat it. In the tradition of Malcolm Gladwell and Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Margaret Heffernan's Willful Blindness is a tour de force on human behavior that will open your eyes.
©2011 Margaret Heffernan (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
"[Heffernan] gives us an insightful look into the psychology of denial and makes an ethical and pragmatic argument for engagement rather than deflection. Heffernan's cogent, riveting look at how we behave at our worst encourages us to strive for our best." (Publishers Weekly)
Margaret Hefferman makes visible a human failing in “Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril.” In this book she approaches answers to why we willfully ignore what we need to acknowledge the most. The subject is important, according to the author, because we fail to see dangers right before our eyes. From marrying the wrong person, to the Enron fiasco, to the housing bubble, Hefferman alerts the reader to how the persons involved had the requisite information before them all the time and how the situations may have been avoided. Of course, hindsight is better than foresight, but her observations and presentation of research is informative. Hefferman is strongest when applying research to specific situations. She is weakest when she digresses into preaching about current events. She is most informative when she is explaining why organizations and individuals have willful blindness and lacking when she is on a soap box. All of it is valuable, but some of the book is more helpful than others. Her analysis of organizational structure and how it influences the decisions of large organizations is worth the price of the book. She details, for example, the problems of BP in Texas as well as the Gulf spill and explains why top management was blind to what was taking place. Willful blindness afflicts us all. Now, Hefferman has shown light on this timely subject. She reads her own text and does it well.
Entrepreneur, marketer, Zen Buddhist.
Heffernan's book is a collection of interesting stories and research on willful blindness, but it suffers from two flaws. 1. It lacks coherence. While the book has a clear subject, it's like a brain dump on the subject. The author doesn't pull the information together in a way that forms a coherent narrative. 2. It's preachy to the point that it's annoying.
After the best introduction to a book I have heard in a long time...one that kept me enthralled and wanting to write down every word she said...I was stunned to find the book changed tone and became studied, boring and more like PhD dissertation than the exciting book she started out writing.
It did have some valuable insight into contemporary failures at a grand level. Like Enron and the mortgage crisis.
No characters in here really.
Unfortunately, her reading sounded just as smug as some of the passages in the book. The book probably would have been better with someone who was objective.
It should have been called "If they had only asked me."
Unfortunately, the author presents a rather confusing story of failures and their causes. She wallows in the usual stereotypes of evil corporate directors and their helpless victims while glossing over root cause analysis of these issues. It is easy and gratifying to impugn the characters no one loves while sanctifying the "victims" but life is much more complicated than that. What about all the "Cassandras" (as she calls them) who were wrong? I'm sure there were many more who were wrong than right. But in the author's world, the cure for blindness is 20/20 hindsight. Not very helpful.
She describes all kinds of issues with biases. And then presumes to believe that she has none. And that the obvious disasters she describes are proof of her theories, despite knowing that the same general processes she faults have also resulted in major advances.
The answer is, of course, that we need a more compelling mix of oversight (hierarchy) while at the same time encouraging local (non-hierarchical) control. Not sure how she reconciles these two incompatible modes in her world. The listener won't learn here either.
The author uses personal examples, psychological studies, and newsworthy events to show how people fail to see the (sometimes dangerous) reality around us.
This book was very well-paced and interesting to listen to. Though the work seems to have a very solid basis in scientific research, the author does a wonderful job of conveying the concepts in easy to understand terms and using examples to illustrate the concepts and help the listener relate to the situation being discussed.
This book is useful for understanding willful blindness in everyday personal and working relationships, as well as understanding the institutional flaws that lead to large scale disasters involving BP, Enron, and Wall Street.
This is an excellent book full of interesting, useful and indeed essential information (e.g. on the unreliability of eye witnesses who are confident and in good faith). I recommend it to all. It is stimulating and significant, and entertaining as well. It is also good in this case to hear the author reading (although this is not always so: some authors' voices don't come across well, e.g. Malcolm Gladwell).
Not at all what I was expecting...I knew I was wasting my time when the author referenced The Sopranos as a case in point. Turns out that the rest of what I was able to read was fantasy-based, too.
This is the only Audible book of 800+ that I was unable to finish. Sorry I wasted my time.
I spend 90+ minutes a day in my car, Audible makes it enjoyable regardless of what's happening in traffic. My taste varies from endurance fitness to economics and from to combat stories and romance novels.
This is a book that I wish I'd borrowed from the library, photocopied the two or three really good chapters and never wasted my time with the rest of it. Some of the book was very well researched and highlighted some really interesting insights, while other was anti-capitalist, liberal blather (and I'm a democrat, so this isn't coming from a social conservative) that I could barely listen to without fast forwarding. The reader is atrocious and so many times you can't tell if it's a first person story she's delivering or citing a quote from a source. Sorry, but without some change in inflection, cadence, or pitch, it's impossible to follow without 100% attention (which I don't do when I'm driving).
No, absolutely not. Probably the single most difficult readers to listen to of anything I've ever bought on Audible.
Nope, not without a more well rounded author.
While there were several very interesting insights into this book, I'd rather have not wasted my time or money for what I got out of it. The reader is just about the most painful thing I've ever listened to, with no changes in pitch or inflection so I could never tell if she was talking about a story about herself or quoting from a source. For a research-oriented book, that's a fatal flaw and makes it difficult to hold the author as credible.
The author would be well advised to keep to the research and stop interjecting her AGW, anti-gun, anti-capitalist agenda into a book on a serious subject.
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