Article | Harvard Business Review | July–August 2014

Becoming a First-Class Noticer: How to Spot and Prevent Ethical Failures in Your Organization

by Max Bazerman


We'd like to think that no smart, upstanding manager would ever overlook or turn a blind eye to threats or wrongdoing that ultimately imperil his or her business. Yet it happens all the time. We fall prey to obstacles that obscure or drown out important signals that things are amiss. Becoming a "first-class noticer," says Max Bazerman, requires conscious effort to fight ambiguity, motivated blindness, conflicts of interest, the slippery slope, and efforts of others to mislead us. As a manager, you can develop your noticing skills by acknowledging responsibility when things go wrong rather than blaming external forces beyond your control. Bazerman also advises taking an outsider's view to challenge the status quo. Given the string of ethical failures of corporations around the world in recent years—from BP to GM to JPMorgan Chase—it's clear that leaders not only need to act more responsibly themselves, but also must develop keen noticing skills in their employees and across their organizations.

Keywords: accountability; Business ethics; Cognitive psychology; Human behavior; Personal ethics in business; Business or Company Management; Ethics;


Bazerman, Max. "Becoming a First-Class Noticer: How to Spot and Prevent Ethical Failures in Your Organization." Harvard Business Review 92, nos. 7/8 (July–August 2014): 116–119.