Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What's Right and What to Do about It

Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What's Right and What to Do about It

Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What's Right and What to Do about It

Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What's Right and What to Do about It


When confronted with an ethical dilemma, most of us like to think we would stand up for our principles. But we are not as ethical as we think we are. In Blind Spots, leading business ethicists Max Bazerman and Ann Tenbrunsel examine the ways we overestimate our ability to do what is right and how we act unethically without meaning to. From the collapse of Enron and corruption in the tobacco industry, to sales of the defective Ford Pinto, the downfall of Bernard Madoff, and the Challenger space shuttle disaster, the authors investigate the nature of ethical failures in the business world and beyond, and illustrate how we can become more ethical, bridging the gap between who we are and who we want to be.

Explaining why traditional approaches to ethics don't work, the book considers how blind spots like ethical fading--the removal of ethics from the decision--making process--have led to tragedies and scandals such as the Challenger space shuttle disaster, steroid use in Major League Baseball, the crash in the financial markets, and the energy crisis. The authors demonstrate how ethical standards shift, how we neglect to notice and act on the unethical behavior of others, and how compliance initiatives can actually promote unethical behavior. They argue that scandals will continue to emerge unless such approaches take into account the psychology of individuals faced with ethical dilemmas. Distinguishing our "should self" (the person who knows what is correct) from our "want self" (the person who ends up making decisions), the authors point out ethical sinkholes that create questionable actions.

Suggesting innovative individual and group tactics for improving human judgment, Blind Spots shows us how to secure a place for ethics in our workplaces, institutions, and daily lives.


For some reason I can’t explain, I know St. Peter won’t call my name.

—“Viva La Vida,” Coldplay

How ethical do you think you are compared to other readers of this book? On a scale of 0 to 100, rate yourself relative to the other readers. If you believe you are the most ethical person in this group, give yourself a score of 100. If you think you’re the least ethical person in this group, give yourself a score of 0. If you are average, give yourself a score of 50. Now, if you are part of an organization, also rate your organization: On a scale of 0 to 100, how ethical is it compared to other organizations?

How did you and your organization do? If you’re like most of the people we’ve asked, each of your scores is higher than 50. If we averaged the scores of those reading this book, we guess that it would probably be around 75. Yet that can’t actually be the case; as we told you, the average score would have to be 50. Some of you must be overestimating your ethicality relative to others. It’s likely that most of us overestimate our ethicality at one point or another. In effect, we are unaware of the gap between how ethical we think we are and how ethical we truly are.

This book aims to alert you to your ethical blind spots so that you are aware of that gap—the gap between who you want to be and the person you actually are. In addition, by clearing away your organizational and societal blind spots, you will be able to close the gap between the organization you actually belong to and your ideal organization. This, in turn . . .

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