September 1, 2022

Where are you strategically ignorant in your role?

Strategic ignorance intentionally avoids information that can unseat your plans, beliefs, and actions.

Here’s an example from a non-business setting. For the last decade or so, I know I’ve had elevated blood pressure. I know the risks associated with it becoming high blood pressure. I know regular exercise and a clean diet will reduce my risk. The thing is, I don’t feel the effects of high blood pressure, and it doesn’t impact my day-to-day activities. I consciously choose to read, work and hang out with family over regular exercise and home-cooked meals.

I have a blood pressure cuff that sits by the side of my bed. It takes 30 seconds to slap it on and snag a reading. Yet day after day, I strategically ignore the cuff. I present convenient lies to myself, telling me it’s ok to place masking tape over the yellow warning light on the dashboard. My strategic ignorance serves me in the short term; however, it will cost me dearly in the long term. In this case, it may cost me my life.

Strategic ignorance in the workplace is more subtle. It’s the feeling of shifting market conditions and a slow decline in new business. A great salesperson feels this change, but they might ignore shining a light on the situation for fear of inviting scrutiny.

It’s the Account Rep who senses a customer is unhappy and ready to leave, but they refuse to question them directly for fear of confirming their gut read.

It’s the Founder who has a toxic but high-performing team member that isn’t held to the exact behavioral expectations as the rest of the team. The team member will slowly degrade the organization from the inside out, but addressing it head-on will cause a headache, so selective ignorance is the option.

Anytime we are selectively ignorant, it’s because we are avoiding making a tough decision. We hope the problem will go away, resolve itself, or others won’t notice.

In my experience, ignorance isn’t bliss. It’s selfish, short-term thinking that critically undermines long-term success.

Face the inconvenient truths and address everything head-on.

Where are you being strategically ignorant? 

About the Author

I use my 20+ years of entrepreneurial experience and training to coach businesses on scaling up rapidly using Verne Harnish's Scaling Up framework. By doing so, my clients are more efficient and profitable, giving them the ability to make bigger impacts in the world.

I deeply believe entrepreneurs are the best equipped to be the vehicle for meaningful change, and in the decade ahead, we'll see a substantial shift in how business is done. We'll move to a model where company purpose, impact, curiosity, and team health will be differentiators in overall business success. As Simon Sinek has pointed out, the finite games are the legacy of the past; we're moving to an infinite game.

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