Denial: Why Business Leaders Fail to Look Facts in the Face - And What to Do About it
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Denial: Why Business Leaders Fail to Look Facts in the Face - And What to Do About it

by Richard S. Tedlow
     
 

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An astute diagnosis of one of the biggest problems in business

Denial is the unconscious determination that a certain reality is too terrible to contemplate, so therefore it cannot be true. We see it everywhere, from the alcoholic who swears he's just a social drinker to the president who declares "mission accomplished" when it isn't. In the business

Overview

An astute diagnosis of one of the biggest problems in business

Denial is the unconscious determination that a certain reality is too terrible to contemplate, so therefore it cannot be true. We see it everywhere, from the alcoholic who swears he's just a social drinker to the president who declares "mission accomplished" when it isn't. In the business world, countless companies get stuck in denial while their challenges escalate into crises.

Harvard Business School professor Richard S. Tedlow tackles two essential questions: Why do sane, smart leaders often refuse to accept the facts that threaten their companies and careers? And how do we find the courage to resist denial when facing new trends, changing markets, and tough new competitors?

Tedlow looks at numerous examples of organiza­tions crippled by denial, including Ford in the era of the Model T and Coca-Cola with its abortive attempt to change its formula. He also explores other companies, such as Intel, Johnson & Johnson, and DuPont, that avoided catastrophe by dealing with harsh realities head-on.

Tedlow identifies the leadership skills that are essential to spotting the early signs of denial and taking the actions required to overcome it.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

Author and Harvard business administration professor Tedlow (Andy Grove: The Life and Times of an American Business Icon) asserts that "denial goes hand-in-hand with short-term thinking," a problem that arises when a business "that once might have focused on getting the job done now is concerned with getting done with the job." The history of industry is rich with such cases, a number of which Tedlow examines with thorough understanding of both business and psychology: the initial brilliance of Henry Ford's Model T assembly lines gave way to significant setbacks when they failed to take the threat of Europe's radial tires seriously; the "great" grocery chain A&P was sunk by executives who "celebrated the statistics they liked." Tedlow also surveys the "edifice complex," in which struggling but respected companies erect monuments to themselves (like the Sears Tower) rather than tackling real challenges. Contrasting successes include tenacious DuPont, Intel's chief truth-seeker Andy Grove, and Johnson & Johnson, which faced almost insurmountable challenges head-on during the toxic Tylenol crisis. Tedlow discusses ways to overcome the denial inherent to human nature as well as the institutional variety, cautioning against "yes" men, the vocabulary of euphemisms, and trash-talking the competition: "What am I using this derision to hide-perhaps from myself?"
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From the Publisher
"Richard Tedlow blends historical rigor with practical insights useful to today's leaders-a rare and wonderful combination. His huge lesson-that the seeds of tragic demise are almost always visible, if only leaders would face them square-on-should terrify any successful person."-Jim Collins, author Good to Great and How the Mighty Fall

"This lucid and scary history of our proclivity to deny uncomfortable truth is Richard Tedlow at his analytical best. But plan ahead before you pick it up. It is very hard to put down."-Clayton M. Christensen, Author of The Innovator's Dilemma

"In this absorbing study, Tedlow makes the case that the willingness to face harsh facts is what distinguishes great leaders from merely adequate ones. A must-read."-Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook

"Tedlow's book forces the business executive to ask: ‘Is this about me?' If the answer is yes, you've got a problem. The stories presented here can help you work your way out of it."-Suzy Welch, author of 10-10-10

"Tedlow's book is a fascinating look at the phenomenon of denial. It's a great explanation of why smart leaders act dumb, and what you can do about it."-Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781591843139
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/04/2010
Pages:
261
Product dimensions:
9.30(w) x 6.28(h) x 0.99(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Richard S. Tedlow is the Class of 1949 Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and the author of Giants of Enterprise (one of BusinessWeek’s ten best books of  2001) and The Watson Dynasty.

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