I just finished watching Margaret Heffernan’s TED talk about
willful blindness—a term from the legal profession meaning “intentionally
putting oneself in a position where one will be unaware of facts that would render
In her talk, Heffernan argues that a common thread— willful blindness—binds many threats and dangers that occurred throughout our history, such as the Nazi Germany, BP’s safety record and subprime mortgage lenders.
As I reflected on her talk, I couldn’t help but see some parallels to my work in innovation. Many organizations have become willfully blind to what is happening with their customers out in the world. Often, they've become dogmatic about their current business model and value proposition. These companies appear to intentionally refuse to see the changes in the world around them.
This mindset can be found in many CPG (consumer packaged goods) firms which continue to focus on incremental product innovation despite the fact that customer demand has shifted away from products and to integrated services and experiences.
The era of domination for Fortune 500 manufacturing companies is over. Will many of these companies continue to be willfully blind?
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