I have recently read two books by Margaret Heffernan; ‘Wilful Blindness’ and ‘Beyond Measure – The big impact of small changes’. It’s unusual for me to read two books by the same author back to back but I enjoyed Wilful Blindness so much I wanted to read the other straight away, both are excellent reads, AND made me reflect on our facilitation practice.

I am going share why I felt both were relevant but first Wilful Blindness probably needs explaining a little more by way of a definition.

Wilful blindness is sometimes called ignorance of law. Wilful or contrived ignorance is a term used in law to describe a situation in which a person looks to avoid civil or criminal liability for a wrongful act by intentionally keeping himself or herself unaware of facts that would render him or her liable.

This is often thrown out in court as the court quickly determine that the defendant SHOULD have known.

The term wilful blindness has come to mean any situation in which people intentionally send their attention away from a problem, either because the problem is too disturbing or from the knowledge that solving the problem would require considerable effort. Closely related to “ignorance is bliss”.

What wilful blindness made me think about was how sometimes in meetings and workshops participants, and even some key clients/stakeholders, choose to ignore the obvious, or choose to ignore certain participant’s opinions or feedback. This can be likened to ignoring the elephant in the room. This ignorance may be down to the fact that they either simply do not want to address the obvious or hear the obvious, for whatever reason(s).

As Facilitators it is our job to ensure that the elephant does indeed get addressed, broken down in to manageable chunks, but addressed none the less. It is also our role to ensure all participants views are heard and captured if necessary and appropriate. BUT, this does have to be contracted with your client and participants, preferably beforehand and most definitely at the start of the meeting or workshop.

The second book I mention above, ‘Beyond Measure – The big impact of small changes’, is a smaller book from the TED series, and focuses on how actually it is often the smallest of changes that can have the biggest impact rather than going for the big wholesale change that might at first seem the best option. This also made me reflect on our facilitation practice and how actually, it’s often the small changes in a meeting or workshop that can have the biggest or most dramatic impact.

For example, it might be a small change in approach, a tweak on how you use a tool, technique or process, a short pause for reflection, a timely Facilitator intervention, a short unscheduled break, a simple, clear and well thought through question, a simple marker pen diagram on a flip chart, a single comment or remark or even a little bit of humour that can make a big difference or change.

With regards to both wilful blindness of participants and small changes, both require us as Facilitators to be on our ‘A game’; by creating a safe space and environment to enable participants to see and hear the obvious, and by observing, listening and making timely and appropriate Facilitator interventions.

I strongly recommend both Wilful Blindness and Beyond Measure (Margaret Heffernan) as great reads.

If you are or colleagues are suffering from wilful blindness or you have an elephant in your room you would like to chat about or if you just would like more information on the type of meetings and workshops we facilitate please visit us at www.circleindigo.com or call us for a chat on +44 (0) 1279 723 283.

23rd September, 2016

Private, public, third sector clients

  • Centrica
  • The Talent Foundation
  • Natwest
  • MBNA
  • Maritime Cluster
  • Barclays
  • Citi
  • Walt Disney
  • KnowledgeBrief
  • St. Ethelburgas Centre for Reconciliation & Peace
  • Virgin Media
  • Citizen’s Advice Bureau
  • University of Leicester
  • Action For Children
  • Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA
  • School-Home Support
  • Participle
  • Business, Innovation & Skills UK Government Department
  • Change First
  • Independent Living Fund – Scotland
  • Catalyst
  • Vodafone
  • International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
  • Severn Trent Services
  • Ministry of Defence (M.o.D)
  • Zero Waste Scotland
  • Training for Life
  • Fifteen Foundation
  • ACAS
  • Allianz
  • United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
  • BBC
  • Novartis
  • Shoreditch Trust
  • RBS
  • Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP)
  • RSA
  • Hockerill College
  • London Borough of Barking and Dagenham
  • Stakeholder Forum For a Sustainable Future
  • Hyde Plus
  • IMS
  • Health & Safety Executive
  • Greenwich Local Authority Childrens Services
  • Turkcell
  • Home Office
  • Brit Insurance
  • Sir Oswald Stoll Foundation
  • Bruel & Kjaer
  • Cross Roads Care
  • Institute of Education (IoE)
  • Clinical Research Network
  • MARS
  • Mental Health Research Network (MHRN)
  • jkr
  • West Kent Arts Patnership
  • Pace
  • Johnson Service Group PLC
  • Police Strategy Unit (PSU)
  • English National Balle
  • Upstage
  • NHS
  • McDonalds
  • The Prince’s Trust
  • Eurojet
  • UCAS
  • Jobcentre Plus
  • Allergan
  • Broadway Theatre
  • Spear
  • University of Westminster
  • Triodis Bank
  • United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
  • Scott Wilson
  • European Bank for Reconstruction & Development
  • Zurich
  • QBE
  • Learn Purple
  • Cubic
  • Harris HospisCare
  • Diabetes UK
  • Elavon
  • WiPM (Women in Project Management)
  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA
  • Ident Trust
  • Training and Development Agency (TDA)
  • Office for Criminal Justice Reform (OCJR)
  • British Gas
  • BP
  • Barclay Card
  • Sareos
  • Diageo
  • BT
  • The Royal British Legion
  • Government Office for London

Our clients

We work with profit and non-profit organisations, cross-sector and cross-industry with executive and leadership teams, staff at all levels, customers, suppliers and prospective partners.

More details


circleindigo worked with staff during a difficult time when facing redundancy, providing sensitive and professional support in a group session and on an individual basis. All staff commented on the enormous impact...
Homeless Hostel,
Read more
BrightCherry Web Design