Institutionalizing Ignorance - Enlightening with Laughter

A colleague recently pointed out the following video to me, laughing at the incompetence of organizations that institutionalize ignorance in their leaders. (If YouTube is blocked, you can also watch the video here at the Kayak web site).

When looking at the incompetence that enshrines itself in the boss' office, it's easy to be critical and mean, isn't it? As a "boss" myself, I certainly have had to learn to be empathetic/sympathetic of how my decisions, even when properly discussed with others, impact others. There's a temptation when being a leader, a manager, to not learn the details of a job. I'm guilty of it myself. Do I really need to know that, or can I focus better on facilitating the work for others who can do it much better than I ever could?

Obviously, there is a balance that must be struck, isn't there?

The best response I've seen to this kind of incompetence lies not in the contemptuous snort, but the laugh. Yes, laughing at incompetence or a simple smile. Faced with insurmountable culture trends, what can one do but choose to smile or laugh in the face of danger? Faced with one's own embrace of ignorance, best to laugh and encourage laughter than to be the raging recipient of snickers and snorts.
"If you laugh on a regular basis, your body actually becomes inhospitable to negativity."
Source: Quoteflections 
If one imagines negativity and ignorance as bugs to be kept out, how can one make oneself inhospitable to negativity? Or, put another way, how can we make ourselves hospitable to those qualities and behaviors that make us better people?

As Angela Maiers, author of Classroom Habitudes, points out, there's something to re-discovering the lessons children have to teach us...among them, laughter.

There’s something about being around young children; beyond their energy, freshness, and laughterChildren are wise without knowing it. Fearless learners and compassionate leaders; children live in a world where everything matters and everyone has value.

The loss of childhood, I suggest, equates to the ebbing of laughter. In its place, a seriousness of what we're about, how important something is, and, then, without laughter, the death of play. Yet, play and laughter go together.
Laughter is the best and cheapest medicine for reducing stress and there is not the least bit of bitterness involved. In fact, research has shown that laughter not only decreases stress, it can also “help relieve pain, bring greater happiness, and even increase immunity.” (Source:
I still remember my reaction as a college student, walking into the parking lot and realizing my friend's car had been stolen--I laughed. We had both been so sure that the car would be there, ready to whisk us away to do the work we were about, that when the bottom fell out from underneath us, I could do nothing but laugh. After a few moments, my friend starting laughing, too. Of course, his first reaction was shock and anger, but upon seeing me laugh at the situation we found ourselves, he couldn't help but join in.

Now, reflecting on that experience, I realize that my reaction would not be the same. What changed? Surely, a greater awareness of the cost, empathy/sympathy for the loss of an expensive conveyance, but...why shouldn't we laugh or smile in the face of adversity?

And, certainly, institutionalized ignorance as reflected in the Kayak Bright Man commercial stimulates laughter. Most poignant, of course, is the idea that the higher one ascends in an organization, the less they know. If only we could learn to laugh at the loss of ignorance, we might find a way ahead to learn wisdom.

What do you think?

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


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