By Eric Brisbon
This statement has been around since the mid 1700’s when Thomas Gray wrote it for a play. Of course, the saying is truncated from what was originally presented as, “Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.” Somewhere along the line the saying became misconstrued to mean something along the lines of, “If you don’t know about something, then what’s the harm.?” Or simply put, the less to worry about can only make life better.
Suffice to day, the depth of our collective ignorance seems to grow with time. While it’s easy to point to our election processes where people vote for folks because they like the color of the clothes they wear, relative levels of ignorance now transcend more of the basic fabric of our daily lives. One can easily argue that all told, ignorance worsens your daily life. After all, what you don’t know can indeed kill you.
Life isn’t getting any easier. Technology, while amazing in its capability and availability, expands our relative universe exponentially with a touch of a few buttons. Communication venues like television, radio, internet, eBooks, Email, Twitter, Facebook, Google etc. make avenues to information available to anyone, that only a few decades ago, had to be researched and sought after if you wanted to know it. So why is it many Ivy league college students don’t know who the VP of our country is or that there are three branches of government?
The same principle holds true in the workplace. How many people today have no idea how the company they work for really performs? Certainly, if its publicly traded there is data available but most folks in many companies have no idea how the job they perform impacts their own life or that of their coworker. Many companies only share the information they want you to hear; much like educational institutions and the news media today. When ignorance prevails the ability to spin items is easy. Educating workers, on the other hand, only make for hard questions and requires management to actually know something.
What if your company shared everything? What if an employee knew exactly how his/her job affected the company’s bottom line? What if high levels of ignorance were no longer accepted and expectations of understanding took hold? Would life be better or worse?
Numerous examples exist of companies that practice open book management and teach their workforce how to read, understand and untimely affect key attributes of their P&L. Drastic improvements are shown to be achieved by eliminating ignorance and provide employees with the information and techniques to achieve success both in their personal lives and that in the workplace. Jack Stacks’ “Great Game of Business” was adopted by AMBAC International in 2018 and the changes in the company since then are impressive. Overall attitudes improved, the quality of questions increased, and many business indicators showed the positive changes as more people began to understand how it all comes together and more importantly, how it works for them and their family.
So, is ignorance bliss? We think not, and now we have the data to prove it.