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Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What's Right and What to Do about It Hardcover – March 20, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-0691147505 ISBN-10: 0691147507 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; 1 edition (March 20, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691147507
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691147505
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #561,508 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Winner of the 2012 Silver Medal Book Award in Business Ethics, Axiom Business

"Well-written, stuffed with intriguing research, and more than a little unnerving, this book will make readers reconsider some of their most entrenched beliefs."--BizEd

"[Blind Spots] is full of studies in human behavior and those results can help us, and the people we manage, make better decisions. . . . [T]he book should be required reading for anyone entering the business world . . . or for those of us who still try to reconcile misdeeds that did not have to be."--Walter Pavlo, Forbes.com

"One explanation for what happened at News of the World can be found in a new book called Blind Spots. Its authors Max Bazerman and Ann Tenbrunsel look at how businesses, from Ford to Enron to subprime mortgage lenders, can end up mired in ethical disaster. But rather than discuss such choices as coolly calculated trade-offs between right and wrong, they look at how people actually make decisions--under pressure from shareholders, bosses and colleagues, up against tight deadlines and often worried about their careers, or even whether their contracts are going to be renewed."--Aditya Chakrabortty, Guardian

"This book is a step toward . . . bringing together a host of studies by the authors and others that probe how easy it is for us [to] act less ethically than we would like. The book also shows how organizations can take advantage of these findings in behavioural ethics to change their informal culture . . ."--Harvey Schachter, The Globe & Mail

"Bazerman and Tenbrunsel apply insights from the field of behavioral ethics to understand why individuals and organizations act unethically and what can be done to prevent such behavior. They draw on research from psychology and business to illustrate how factors outside our awareness influence decisions and behavior, and what we can do to prevent ethical lapses."--Taya R. Cohen, Pittsburgh Business Times

"Blind Spots is a bold argument against the decency of human beings, showing how we subvert our ethical principles time and time again. Noting a human tendency to justify our own actions to ourselves with little thought for their consequences, business professors Max Bazerman and Ann Tenbrunsel explain how employees can give rise to dysfunctional organizations for fear of rocking the boat. . . . The authors adopt a lively tone throughout and harness a broad mix of examples, from lab experiments to the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster and the collapse of Enron."--Gregor Hunter, The National

"In an era where we've watched political leaders tell blatant lies and seen the corporate world nearly sunk by an onslaught of questionable ethics, it's time to take a sober look at why people who think of themselves as moral can commit unethical and even unlawful acts--or approve the dishonest acts of others. . . . [T]his is examined in the recent book Blind Spots, by Harvard Business School professor Max Bazerman and Ann Tenbrunsel, professor of business ethics at the University of Notre Dame."--Toronto Star

"The style [of Blind Spots] is incisive and reassuringly uningratiating."--Steven Poole, The Guardian

"Bazerman . . . and . . . Tenbrunsel . . . set out to show that if we are to make ethical decisions, we need to recognize such blind spots in ourselves as our failure to view our own immoral actions objectively and our tendency to act based on how we want to behave rather than on how we should."--Susan Schwartz, Montreal Gazette

"Blind Spots is a good book. It tells a story in a clear and compelling fashion, which is what a book is for. The story is that we often act unethically, not because we're faced with ethical questions and decide to pick the 'bad' option, but because we fail to see that there is an ethical issue at all."--Neuroskeptic blog

"If you want to be an ethical person or organization and are sometimes left nonplussed by the unethical behavior that still ensues nonetheless, then this is the right book to help you understand and correctly ensure that ethical behavior happens when push comes to shove."--Mouse Trap blog

"Are we as ethical as we think we are? An important new book by . . . Max Bazerman and . . . Ann Tenbrunsel says probably not. In Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What's Right and What to Do about It, Bazerman and Tenbrunsel make a convincing case that a significant gap exists between how ethical we think we are and how ethical we actually are."--Scott Flegal, Nashua Telegraph

"In their well-written, easily accessible text, Bazerman and Tenbrunsel rely on well-known cases of ethical failure and prior research, often previously popularized psychological studies, to frame the emerging field of behavioral ethics. . . . [I]t serves as an excellent introduction to the discipline."--Choice

"I enjoyed this book and think it is ideal for a team of managers to read together. Knowing how common it is for individuals to miss seeing a conflict or bias, colleagues could commit to challenging each other with candor and care."--Jill Geisler, Poynter

"I will surely consider using the text in the classroom in the future. . . . [P]articularly if one is trying to establish organizational policy that encourages ethical behavior--there is a good deal here that will be of interest."--J. Jeremy Wisnewski, Philosophy in Review

From the Inside Flap

"This fascinating book holds up a desperately needed mirror that objectively reveals a reflection we might not want to see. Yet through experienced guidance and genuine input, Bazerman and Tenbrunsel offer solutions that can powerfully change the way we do business."--Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and The Leader in Me

"When we think of unethical behavior, the images that often come to mind are those of robbers, thieves, the executives at Enron, or Bernie Madoff. Blind Spots is not just about these criminals, but about a much larger problem-the dishonest actions that we all take while still thinking of ourselves as wonderfully moral people. In this important book, Bazerman and Tenbrunsel show us how we fail to see our own immoral actions in an objective light, and the trouble that this biased view gets us into."--Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational

"Peppered with compelling examples, Bazerman and Tenbrunsel's lively book deserves the broadest possible audience. Showing that the human mind sometimes leads us to behave in ways that are inconsistent with our own ethical standards, Blind Spots introduces behavioral ethics and reveals how this emerging field has important implications for wise decision making in our personal and professional lives. This is a must-read for those responsible for shaping regulatory policies in organizations and government."--Robert H. Mnookin, Harvard University

"Bazerman and Tenbrunsel weave together solid scientific evidence, stories from the press, and reports from their own experiences to convincingly demonstrate that the actions of people and organizations often do not live up to their stated ethical standards. Addressing, in insightful ways, how this gap might be closed, this important book is a must-read for business leaders, government officials, and students of behavioral ethics."--Arthur P. Brief, University of Utah

"This terrific book summarizes the rapid advances made in the field of behavioral ethics and brings them to the attention of the thoughtful practitioner. With good examples and lucid writing, this book makes a reliable reference for people interested in building ethical organizations and institutions."--Madan Pillutla, London Business School

Customer Reviews

The book is filled with some glaring case studies.
This is a good book for anyoe who is perplexed as to why people have all the good intentions in the world and still do bad things.
This book is an easy and fairly short read, with quite deep ideas.
Jen Badham

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By W. Cheung on September 6, 2013
Format: Paperback
This is a short but enlightening book. It provides ample objective evidence to prove that we are oftentimes unable to live up to our very own ethical standards. Worse, we are habitual revisionists and very skillful in rewriting our past to cover up our moral blunders. The underlying causes are not totally unexpected: conflict of interest, egocentrism, overreliance on consequentialist analyses, and being exposed to an unethical culture or milieu. What is important is that many unethical behavior are in a sense unconscious and unintentional. Key examples are drawn from mainly the business world, but the principles illustrated can be generalized and extrapolated. The authors spend the last crowning chapter on suggesting ways to combat these moral flaws. Awareness of the problem is, as usual, the very first step to take.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Laurel Fedor on July 11, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
You are not as ethical as you think you are. That is the basic message from behavioral ethicists of this book. It's an interesting mix of cognitive research with anecdotes on why it is that people in business do unethical things. An easy read for the most part, but with plenty of substance. Can be a bit redundant. Really good for people who want to understand why, despite their best intentions, we still end up making mistakes and doing things we know are unethical, even after the fact. Recommended.
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful By E I Schwartz on April 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover
It seems that every month an ethics scandal has overtaken the headlines. But politicians and CEOs are no worse than anyone else. It turns out that people are quite good a recognizing right from wrong in the abstract, but it the moment, we overvalue ourselves, overlook the obvious, and make bad decisions. This book, written by two leaders in their field, is an excellent introduction to the human psychology behind poor ethical choices, why they are so pervasive, and how we can place ourselves in a position to succeed.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jen Badham on June 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book is an easy and fairly short read, with quite deep ideas. It has almost nothing to do with the subject of 'Ethics' in its traditional meaning - what is the right thing to do? Instead, it concerns decision making, why we fail to do the right thing even though we want to.

If you have done reading already in cognitive biases (psychology of decision making) or behavioural economics, there will be no new knowledge here. However, the application is novel and interesting, because the book describes how these same biases undermine our own belief systems (whatever they may be) instead of the more common description of how the biases undermine rationality.

It is clearly targeted at managers - referring to business decisions throughout - with a minor nod also to policy decisions. However, the book should have broader appeal, since it is also relevant to personal decision making. Note that the examples would be familiar to US residents, but less familiar to the rest of us.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Biz Book Reader on September 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The book's subtitle is very accurate on its subject: why we fail to do what's right and what to do about it. The authors outline their case and walk through different drivers of ethical lapses (ethical bounding, ethical fading, etc.) as they are manifested in different levels of organization: self, person-to-person, groups and society as a whole. It's a very helpful framework for starting to think about the gaps that exist between what we should do and what we end up doing. I wish it were better edited to sharpen up terminology, reduce redundancy and give the book a bit more life (many of the illustrating stories would benefit from a bit of Gladwell-like attention to narrative just to help with pace), but the core of the book is the data and accompanying framework -- and those are both solid and useful. I would highly recommend any managers trying to build more ethically-consistent organizations read this early on in their efforts.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Samuel Knapp on August 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Bazerman and Tenbrunsel describe why people with good intentions may fail to act in accordance with their own ethical standards. Relying on studies from the field of behavioral ethics, psychology, and other social sciences they demonstrate presence of "blind spots," or ethical vulnerabilities which are often outside of their own conscious awareness.

"Without an awareness of blind sports, traditional approaches to ethics won't be particular useful in improving behavior" (p. 37). They note that approaches such as developing ethics codes, or giving mandatory lectures on ethics are often ineffective. Fortunately, they offer specific strategies to help the readers avoid "ethical sinkholes." They ask the readers to consider, for example, whether a problem is defined as an ethical issue or a non-ethical issue (such as a business decision or an engineering decision); whether prejudices that are outside of their conscious awareness may motivate their behaviors; whether informal or unwritten forces within the organization encourage employees to ignore or minimize the ethical implications of a decision; or whether isolation, uncertainty or time pressures may increase the likelihood of an unethical decision.

Bazerman and Tenbrunsel look at ethics from the standpoint of individual, institutional, and societal decision making. Their book is clearly written with good examples and research results that are clearly explained and it has applications for business owners, employees, professionals, and everyday individuals.
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