I am about to offend you.
Do you have all of the data, information, knowledge, and wisdom you need to make your project decisions? Are you missing something? In a way, I’m asking what could be interpreted as a very offensive question: “are you ignorant”?
But I’m using ignorance in its truest sense – lacking the proper knowledge or information.
Happy New Year! I certainly don’t mean to offend. I’m actually sharing a very interesting article from BBC Future, which discusses the science of agnotology. This is the science and study of ‘culturally induced ignorance’ such as when the tobacco industry clouded the science around tobacco and lung cancer so that people remained ignorant of the connection.
The story features Robert Proctor, a science historian who has studied the ‘spread of ignorance’. Per the article:
“Proctor found that ignorance spreads when firstly, many people do not understand a concept or fact and secondly, when special interest groups – like a commercial firm or a political group – then work hard to create confusion about an issue. In the case of ignorance about tobacco and climate change, a scientifically illiterate society will probably be more susceptible to the tactics used by those wishing to confuse and cloud the truth.
Consider climate change as an example. “The fight is not just over the existence of climate change, it’s over whether God has created the Earth for us to exploit, whether government has the right to regulate industry, whether environmentalists should be empowered, and so on. It’s not just about the facts, it’s about what is imagined to flow from and into such facts,” says Proctor.”
(Blogger’s Note: the photo associated with this post actually comes from a form of social expression in Australia in which hundreds literally buried their heads in the sand on Bondi Beach to mock Prime Minster Tony Abbott on his denial view of climate change science)
The connection to us as project, program, and portfolio managers, of course, is that whatever our political beliefs, we cannot tolerate (or perhaps put more realistically, afford) to be ignorant. We have to be connected – as connected as possible – to the facts, whether they be the latest report from a subcontractor, the budget results, or, yes, climate change. Even if you disagree with the science or are dubious about the way in which it is presented, understand the way in which others are processing the information, and take that as a fact – as information – as knowledge.
In any case, have a look at the article – it’s fascinating to learn about a whole science dedicated to the idea of what we don’t know and why we don’t know it.
Learning about what we don’t know and why – and even more importantly, learning how we can prevent our own ignorance – is simply best-practice project management.
There’s actually an assessment tool to check on your level of awareness on sustainability issues in your projects, programs, and portfolios, called The Sustainability Wheel™ in our new book, “Driving Project, Program, and Portfolio Success“. Check it out (both the book and the assessment tool).
Using the Sustainability Radar™ from our tool, you can find out if you are a Fearless Leader, or (gasp) an Efficient Bamboozler, or one of dozens of other types. And more importantly, there is coaching to help reverse any gaps.
Check out Sustainability Radar™ in our new book.
With that, we’d like to wish you an Agnotologically Correct Happy New Year!