Margaret Heffernan explores why big organisations so often make big mistakes - and asks if the cure could be the aviation industry's model of a 'just culture'.
In the past 10 years, there have been a string of organisational failures - from BP to the banks, and the Catholic Church in Ireland. In each instance, hundreds, even thousands of people could see what was going on but acted as though they were blind. Silence ensured the problems continued and allowed them to grow.
The conditions that create the phenomenon called 'willful blindness' are pervasive across institutions. It was a term that came up in the Enron scandal. Willful blindness is a legal term - it states that if there is knowledge you could have had and should have had, you are still responsible.
Businesswoman and writer Margaret Heffernan argues that the solution is a 'just culture'; which means organisations that encourage people to speak up early and often when things go adrift, without fear of being silenced.