The former CEO of five businesses, Margaret Heffernan explores the all-too-human thought patterns — like conflict avoidance and selective blindness — that lead managers and organizations astray.

Why you should listen

How do organizations think? In her book, Willful Blindness Margaret Heffernan examines why businesses and the people who run them often ignore the obvious -- with consequences as dire as the global financial crisis and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Heffernan’s third book, Willful Blindness was shortlisted for the Financial Times/GoldmanSachs Best Business Book award in 2011.

Margaret Heffernan began her career in television production, building a track record at the BBC before going on to run the film and television producer trade association, IPPA. In the United States, Heffernan became a serial entrepreneur and CEO in the wild early days of web business and was named one of the Internet's Top 100 by Silicon Alley Reporter in 1999.

In addition to writing books, Heffernan blogs for the Huffington Post and BNET.com and is a Visiting Professor of Entrepreneurship at Simmons College in Boston and the Executive in Residence at Babson College.

What others say

“So how can we combat willful blindness? Heffernan believes that we need a system of incentives that values vigilance and oversight as much as we value the bottom line.” — The Current, on CBC Radio

Margaret Heffernan’s TED talks

Margaret Heffernan on the TED Blog
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Business

Cherish the employees who bring you bad news, says Margaret Heffernan

August 12, 2013

Margaret Heffernan thinks deeply about what makes businesses work, and her answers are often surprising. At TEDGlobal 2012, she shared why disagreement is vital for innovation. In today’s talk, given at TEDxDanubia, Heffernan turns her eye to willful blindness — the fact that people are primed to ignore evidence that something is amiss in their […]

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Business

Favorites of 2012: On being wrong about business talks

December 24, 2012

Business talks are boring. Among all the things I was certain of when I started writing for TED, that one was near the top of the list, just under ‘ice is cold’ and ‘brains are gooey.’ I worked as a physicist for a few years before switching over to writing (with a short jaunt in […]

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Business

5 rules for productive conflict

August 6, 2012

Rob Manning did everything in his power to screw up the Curiosity rover’s landing on Mars last night. Manning not only cut radio signals to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s control room, but also simulated a hole being poked in the rover’s fuel system and solar flares flying toward the spacecraft. Why would he do this? […]

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Quotes from Margaret Heffernan

[For constructive conflict,] we have to resist the neurobiological drive which means that we really prefer people mostly like ourselves.
Margaret Heffernan
TEDGlobal 2012 • 2M views Aug 2012
Inspiring, Persuasive
A fantastic model of collaboration: thinking partners who aren't echo chambers.
Margaret Heffernan
TEDGlobal 2012 • 2M views Aug 2012
Inspiring, Persuasive
The truth won't set us free — until we develop the skills and the habit and the talent and the moral courage to use it.
Margaret Heffernan
TEDGlobal 2012 • 2M views Aug 2012
Inspiring, Persuasive