The Paradox of Denial
The ability to deny is an amazing human phenomenon. Denial can be our best friend and our worst enemy.
There are situations in which denial is very useful. Consider founding a new company. If you look at the statistics, your chances of success are not great. Very few businesses that are launched today will also exist in five years. However, if there were not denial of those odds, any irrational optimism or “protective stupidity”, who in his right mind would ever start a new business? How would any new enterprise ever come into being? Without a healthy denial of the odds you will never get to act and execute with belief.
In other situations denial can destroy a business. Lots of stories can be told about executives who were not willing to face the facts, especially when the facts were not pleasant. Or maybe they accepted the facts, but denied their implications. It doesn’t apply to us. It’s not a big deal. It’s not our problem. It can’t happen here. This is what Sigmund Freud called “a state of rational apprehension that does not result in appropriate action.”
A great CEO, entrepreneur and manager must be able to navigate in the grey area of denial. On one side you need to nurture the irrational optimism that drives people though tough times. On the other side you need to make sure that you to tell the truth every single day.