Do you have wilful blindness?

Here’s something to chew on heading into the weekend…

Like most journalists, I’ve read a lot this week about the scathing report handed down by the British Parliamentary inquiry into phone hacking by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

Without doubt the most scathing piece was written by former media analyst Mike Mangan, who went so far as to suggest Murdoch could face jail time if he was found to have breached the United States’ tough Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

One of the ways the Act can be violated is if an executive is found to have been wilfully blind to corrupt practices within their company. This, Mangan argues, is why the British Parliamentary inquiry specifically described Murdoch as having “turned a blind eye and exhibited wilful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications.”

I don’t think there’s any chance Rupert Murdoch is going anywhere near jail, but this idea of wilful blindness has been rattling around in my head.

Now, I’m confident that there wouldn’t be any members of the SmartCompany community involved in phone hacking. Indeed, I’m pretty confident that our entrepreneurs don’t sail close to the wind when it comes to any legal or ethical issues.

But that doesn’t mean you’re not wilfully blind to the problems in your business.

Wilful blindness doesn’t have to be about something dodgy. It might be being wilfully blind to a process in your business that gets results but seems overly costly, or inefficient or a drain on time and resources.

It might be being wilfully blind to the performance of a certain staff member whose performance is covered by the wider team, but you know isn’t up to scratch.

It might be being wilfully blind to the skewing of your customer mix towards one very large customer. You know it could come back to haunt you in the long run, but while the cash is coming in everything’s fine.

It might be being wilfully blind to a tax strategy your bookkeeper suggests. You know it doesn’t smell right, but hey, they’re the experts and the books look great.

It might be being wilfully blind to a quality issue in your product; or the age of your IT systems and equipment; or, dangerously, an OH&S risk that you’ll get around to fixing later.

You only have to look at the number of company collapses we’re seeing at the moment to know there are hundreds of entrepreneurs who have not read the warning signs in their firms. But these business failures don’t occur because the business owners couldn’t see these signs – more often than not, entrepreneurs try to push these signs to the back of their mind.

So think a little if there’s anything in your business you are being wilfully blind about. Something small, that nags at the back of your mind.

Something that could come back to bite you.


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