Tone Deaf or Unable to Identify Risk?

In September, the Australian Financial Review reported on “How South Flank almost blew up in BHP’s face.

A quick look at this article should leave many with one burning question: Why did it take an inquiry into Rio’s blasting of Juukan Gorge for BHP to realize that the destruction of cultural heritage sites at South Flank was wrong, or ‘tone deaf’ as a BHP representative stated?”.

Shouldn’t BHP have identified the risk well before a competitor blew up a 46,000-year-old cave system of cultural significance?  How did this reputational risk slip by the Board and Executive team at BHP?

In the same article it is reported that a company representative stated “We recognise that what has been lost at Juukan Gorge is not only a site of unique and living cultural heritage, but also… a loss of trust,

So, well before seeking approval from the West Australian Government, BHP should have understood that they were planning to destroy a site of unique and living cultural heritage and that a significant loss of trust would ensue. 

Performing this analysis should have helped BHP conclude that it was on the wrong path.  Not a difficult risk to assess.

Unable to appreciate or understand the concerns or difficulties of others

– Definition of Tone Deaf