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Book & Film Recommendations: Bad Blood

PIT Book & Film Recommendations
How deception and lies led a promising prospect to the point of no return

At the lunch table at People Intouch (which is virtual these days) tips are often shared on great books, articles, movies and documentaries relevant to our core passion: The “Whistleblower (or SpeakUp) Dilemma”. We figured: why keep them all to ourselves? In this series of blogs we will share these recommendations with you.

This time we will talk about John Carreyrou’s book Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup.

What happened?

In his book John Carreyrou describes how Silicon Valley company Theranos was able to hold up a front to all its investors and board members while it was committing fraudulent acts. Theranos promised to develop a simple and quick test for detecting diseases. In reality, what was promised could not be delivered and test results were consciously fabricated to get investors on board. Even though the board and Theranos’ investors consisted out of experienced people, they did not challenge the credibility of the product or company.

Why is this interesting?

Firstly, the stakeholders saw what they wanted to see, and because of this did not question what was really going on. Secondly, the fraud developed over time;  after exaggerating the product’s abilities to investors – who genuinely believed in the build, measure, learn approach – for the first time, Theranos reached a point of no return. Thirdly, critical voices were never recognised, let alone taken into account when moving forward. If someone was critical of the product or methods used within the company, this person was immediately side-lined or fired.

All that Theranos had built was built on lies, and transparency at that point would have meant the end. However, because of this they also lost control of information within the company and the subsequent ability to deal with the problem internally, which lay at the base of the scandal described in the book. It is of great importance to listen to what employees and stakeholders have to say, in order to move forward efficiently. An open Speak Up culture in which it is clear where one can go to speak his or her mind, is paramount to this.

John Carreyrou’s book ‘Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup’ is available here

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