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

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Penguin, Mar 4, 2010 - Business & Economics - 288 pages
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.

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The IBM System360
IBM and the PC
IBMs Comeback
2 What Denial Is and Is Not
Denial in the Tire Industry
Denial at the AP
Denial at Sears
Delivering Denial at Webvan
9 Strategy Structure and Facing Facts at DuPont
A New Perspective at Intel
Tylenols Comeback
12 A New Point of View
Cases and Teaching Notes

Denial and the IBM PC
7 Cokes New Formula for Denial

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About the author (2010)

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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