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02/04/2011

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Ignorance and imagination starts at the top and rolls downhill.

Even more fun was conducting compensation audits of the top officers of major corporations in private confidential sessions in The Day. They invariably had absolutely no idea what the enterprises's compensation philosophies were or the intent behind them; they always had strong opinions about what their philosophy SHOULD be but were terrified to speak up lest they be considered ignorant by their NEO peers. The top HR officer was generally the only one with all the answers but he or she was usually not one of that top cadre.

The real irony came in the fact that virtually all the top officers typically actually shared the exact same conflicted opinions but had always been afraid to admit their ignorance or voice their confusion lest they lose face. As the outsider, I could safely break the ice, disclose their unanimous fears without political cost and launch them into constructive open exchanges about how to rectify the problems they all saw but had been reluctant to discuss.

"The admission of ignorance is the beginning of wisdom." - Socrates.

So true, people do imagine the darndest things! I hadn't considered the 'fun' angle of poor communication before but your comparison to 'asking 6 year olds how airplanes fly' may be the definitive description.

Thanks for the comments!

@Jim: great quote

@Laura: The question is one of my favorites to ask kids that age. While having a client meeting and kid meeting on the same day the similarity struck me!

Reminds me of a great Patrick Moynihan quote, "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, not their own facts."

Dan, brilliant post. This applies in nearly every aspect of business. For example, when companies fail to communicate what it is they truly expect out of employees, employees will assume. My favorite bandwagon -- company values -- is a case in point. If you have no values, or only have them on the wall, then employees will assume they can "get the job done at all costs" -- even if "Integrity" or "preserving the environment" is important to the company.

And it's amazing how groupthink gets going when you have the blind leading the blind.

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