The one-sentence summary

We become blind to the truth because we are hard wired to stick to what we know best, and we then unwittingly use a range of techniques to persuade ourselves it’s okay.


  • This book is all about why we ignore the obvious at our peril, much like the directors of Enron and many others in business, politics and family life.
  • Wilful blindness takes many forms, and includes:
  • Affinity – we tend to like people like us, which narrows our perspective
  • Love is blind – as shown by the partners who don’t want to admit their partners have done something wrong
  • Dangerous convictions – those pledged to a cause (a religion, a company) refuse to accept that anything might be wrong
  • Mental limits – we can’t see the obvious if we are tired, or if we are doing too many things at once, such as texting and driving
  • The Ostrich instruction – many of us ignore or underestimate the truth, such as taking sun beds that can cause cancer just because we want a tan
  • Just following orders – this is the excuse usually given by soldiers when a massacre occurs
  • Out of sight, out of mind – if we can’t see it, we convince ourselves it isn’t actually happening


  • We become blind to the truth because we are hard wired to stick to what we know best. We even like our own initials better than other letters, which explains why we love having monogrammed clothes.
  • Pandora internet radio (banned in the UK) introduces you to music just like the stuff you have already selected. This is helpful or narrowing depending on your view (see The Filter Bubble).
  • Research shows that the more like-minded people are, the more extreme they become
  • Using a mobile phone when driving affects judgement more than being drunk – the activity occupies too much of the same faculties you need
  • With too many vested interests, organisations can become ‘structurally blind’
  • To overcome this, leaders need the ‘unvarnished truth’, and need to encourage ‘structured dissonance’, where people can air their anxieties without fear of recourse – otherwise they become zombie companies
  • Cassandra are whistleblowers – they won’t take wilful blindness, and are often rejected as a result of pointing out the uncomfortable truth
  • Do we mean this?” and “Did I understand correctly?” are powerful questions that often expose wilful blindness


  • This is not a business textbook so you have to roll with the narrative to find the headlines and the suggested remedies