Bad things happen to us all. When they do, some confront the truth and try to make things better, while other go into a death spiral of blaming others.
Recently, some people and corporations have stood out in my mind for the way they held themselves accountable:
- BP's open response to the Gulf oil spill. Specifically, them taking responsibility for all the cleanup costs and legitimate loss claims, over & above their legal liability.
- Obama coming clean to the nation about the Minerals Management Service (a federal agency) cozying up with oil corporations.
- Google apologizing for inadvertently capturing Wi-Fi data, and making amends at once.
- Google being honest with customers and investors about the Nexus One fiasco.
- Goldman Sachs' Lloyd Blankfein's behavior during the Senate hearings.
When you hear such stories in the news, pay close attention to how the accused person or company responds. Some, like Google, admit their mistakes publicly. They also learn from those mistakes quickly... which helps them recover faster. I will make a bet that BP, Goldman Sachs and Google will overcome their recent setbacks and be stronger than ever.
The blame game has been everywhere in the news recently. The oil spill, Europe's economic woes, America's jobless recovery, Facebook and Google privacy concerns, Apple v/s Adobe, Apple v/s Jason Chen... how do you know who's right?
People (especially politicians) love a scapegoat, because pinning the blame on someone else is easier than taking responsibility for fixing the problem. The media (formerly an honorable profession) also loves these stories because they fuel people's anger and sell more papers. Often they are wrong, and often they ignore bigger problems that get swept under the rug until it's too late.
Cases in point:
- Greece looking to sue US banks over the market's lack of confidence in Greek bonds, never mind the role played by their government's years of financial mismanagement.
- Michigan senator Carl Levin leading the Senate witch hunt at Goldman Sachs, never mind the "sh***y" state of Michigan's economy that he's done nothing to help.
- Napolitano trying to make BP pay for every single claim related to the oil spill, blatantly ignoring current US liability laws, and making BP the target of every single jobless claim in Louisiana. Does she understand the difference between being "responsible" for something and being "culpable" for it?
- The people who blame Wall Street for the loss of their jobs and having no savings, forgetting their former live-beyond-your-means lifestyles.
When watching a bad situation unfold, look for who is passing the buck, and who is acting responsibly and facing facts. That'll give you a hint about who will emerge stronger in the end.