Penn State the Case Study

A few years back I took a Teaching Company course called ‘The Art of Critical Decision-Making’ by Michael Roberto.
Outstanding course – useful for just about anyone engaged in anything that involves decision-making.

(The Teaching Company course catalog is overall great stuff – highly recommended.)

Roberto uses case studies to illustrate how fine institutions run by otherwise intelligent and capable people can make colossally stupid decisions.

To wit, how on earth did our government greenlight the Bay of Pigs, what was Coke thinking with ‘New Coke’ and why did NASA launch the Challenger that cold morning in 1986?

So assuming this grand jury report is accurate, the Penn State debacle can be walked back to a decision taken by four principals: the university president, the athletics director, a university vice-president, and the legendary coach.

If I understood Roberto correctly, these four individuals likely combined to make an egregious, shameful, and exceptionally bad decision due in part to a homogeneous world view, a shared and heavily vested interest in the status quo, and a certain degree of hubris owing to their positions, status, power, and wealth.

In other very simple words, if you make 7-figures, if the world falls at your feet on a daily basis, if you have a history of success and accomplishment, and if the other people in the room that look, sound, and think a lot like you agree, then deciding not to report the rape of a child to authorities can seem reasonable and rational.

So as Penn State picks up the pieces, the university would do well to make Roberto a required course for the decision makers that will replace its disgraced leaders.