Lawrence M. Krauss is a theoretical physicist, commentator and book author. Some dozen years ago he wrote in one of his commentaries that “The increasingly blatant nature of the nonsense uttered with impunity in public discourse is chilling. Our democratic society is imperiled as much by this as any other single threat, regardless of whether the origin of the nonsense are religious fanaticism, simple ignorance or personal gain.” He recently noted that things “seem to have only gotten worse in the years since I first wrote those words.”
I despair when I think about this topic; mostly because I see a drastic increase in our inability to combat this situation. We need an educated populace in order for them to be able to filter out nonsense and think for themselves. Education in our country is in a death spiral. We, as individuals, need to care enough to take the time to research what we see, hear or read. We need to challenge our “trusted sources.” The politicians, religious leaders, talking heads, 24/7 news cycle, sound bite mentality and self-focused electorate all add their nonsense to the stream of misinformation and misrepresentations. And, as business people, we need to make sure we not only help our employees in this regard, but must be constantly on the watch for how this “new” social media is affecting the reputation of our organizations.
Speaking for myself, I will do my very best to balance research with time available to vet what I send out in e-mails, post on my blogs and advocate in speeches. I will continue to challenge colleagues and friends about the content of their communications where needed. As usual, I’ll end with a couple of questions: What are you doing to help your colleagues, friends and employees vet the information they pass along? What are you doing to make sure you also look at the information you’re passing along and on which you are basing decisions? Are you as or better yet, more familiar with the statistics of your business and markets as you are with your favorite sports team? Are you part of the problem or part of the solution?