Max Bazerman has authored or co-authored 19 books in the field of decision making, negotiation, and ethics. Bazerman’s latest book, co-authored with Ann E. Tenbrunsel, called Blind Spot (2011) is the main source of material for this interview. Bazerman and Tenbrunsel argue that expensive ethics interventions within organizations will always fail because they are predicated on the faulty assumption that individuals always recognize an ethical dilemma when it is presented to them. Bazerman argues that, in fact, we often behave contrary to our best ethical intentions without knowing it. In Blind Spot, Bazerman points to case studies that illustrate ethical lapses such as the Challenger space shuttle disaster, steroid use in Major League Baseball, the crash in the financial markets, and the energy crisis, as well as numerous case studies that informs his current research. What all of these catastrophes teach us is that decision makers can be blinded by self-interest or “Group think” or other psychological motivations and commit ethical lapses without realizing it.
This idea of a blind spot has also informed previous books on the subject of negotiation, in which Bazerman argues that a negotiator’s failure to see and use accessible and perceivable information while seeing and using other equally accessible and perceivable information hinders value in negotiations.