Book it: Best bets for board reading: From a roundup of new books, leadership insights on winning the career game, the dangers of denial, the new activism, director dilemmas, and memorable board moments.: Reality? What reality?

 
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From Denial by Richard S. Tedlow Copyright 2010 by the author Published by the Penguin Group Inc. (www.penguin.com).

THIS BOOK IS BEING WRITTEN in the midst of the worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression. How, when, and indeed if the crisis will end no one knows. But whatever the future holds and the postmortems reveal about the crisis, one culprit is abundantly clear: denial.

Denial is the unconscious calculus that if an unpleasant reality were true, it is would be too terrible, so therefore it cannot be true. It is what Sigmund Freud described as the combination of "knowing with not knowing." It is, in George Orwell's blunt formulation, "protective stupidity."

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From the young child who insists that his parents haven't separated even though his father has moved out, to the alcoholic who swears he is just a social drinker, to the president who declares "mission accomplished" when it isn't, denial permeates every facet of life. Business is no exception. In fact, denial may be the biggest and potentially most ruinous problem that businesses face, from start-ups to mature, powerful corporations.

But surely businesspeople ought to be among the most hardheaded and clear-eyed among us. Why would a sane, smart...

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