The Gorilla Award for 2005


It’s award season. Not a suprise. The end of the year encourages thoughts of reflection and rankings.

I thought it might be fun to institute an award for the corporate news story that won’t make anyone’s list of top events this year: the 2005 Gorilla Award. The award is named for a famous video testing “inattentional blindness.” As professors who teach Enron are fond of relating, experimenters asked students to watch a video of folks playing basketball and to to count the total number of times that the people wearing white pass the basketball, while not counting the passes of folks wearing black.

Go ahead, click on the video and perform the test. Then come back.

Notice the gorilla?

Most folks don’t (although the way I’ve set up this post’s title, you probably will.) The point is that even individuals who are highly motivated to pay attention to a particular event may miss the proverbial gorilla in the room, because their attention is focused elsewhere.

Thus the Gorilla Award. Based on nominations from our audience, and the genius of distributed sources of information, I’d like to guess 2005’s version of the corporate gorilla story. What unheralded tax-break/accounting technique, merger/breakup, stock/bond rise/fall/issuance, corporate announcement/silence, etc., will prove in the next several years to be the biggest missed business story of 2005. That is, what (in the words of the Secretary of Defense) were the known [corporate] unknowns of the past year? Just to give you two contestable examples, I’d say that the Gorilla story of 2000 was the Enron SPEs; the Gorilla story of 2003 was creation of iTunes by Apple.

Nominations are open.

[Update: Based on reader feedback, I should make clear that the Gorilla story from 2005 can’t be something that has already been featured in the business press (WSJ, Forture, etc.) It must be something we missed because we had our eyes on a different ball.]

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