Updated: Mar 6, 2020
Required viewing for every adult: the TED talk by Margaret Heffernan-- “Willful Blindness.” I always included a TED talk by this amazingly honest woman on the mandatory viewing list for university level Critical Thinking classes because creative thought really begins with the ability to take stock of a situation—to ponder--with real honesty. Pondering is the kind of gutsy thinking that it takes to dig for solutions that seem to threaten “the way things are done.” This TED talk is worth watching several times, and then pondering over.
Many of us have found pandering to those perpetuating the status quo the easiest way to get by. Just play along, maintain your own position, and do not question. Putting time and effort into actually pondering how to find or institute a daring solution seems too risky. Honesty that threatens to expose violations of human rights, consumer safety, or public trust is not popular or welcome, especially when revenue is in jeopardy. But is it worth it to be complicit with looking the other way when something is clearly dangerous, harmful, or violates human rights?
The question in every case of willful blindness is, “What is the cost in human dignity, in integrity, in human lives, if we refuse to see the truth and act upon it responsibly?”
Breaking out of looking the other way instead of bluntly facing problems in our organizations, our businesses, our lives takes courage. But sometimes breaking the silence and opening the conversation is the first step to bringing creative and life-saving answers. It is so easy to keep quiet and decline to ask questions or challenge paradigms. We would all like to think ourselves as resourceful people who can think outside the box, but sometimes those boxes have become the prisons of our own willful blindness. Outside the boxes is the honesty and guts it takes to really bring change.