I was recently on an airplane next to a lovely older gentleman from Conneticut. It was election night, and he was using the in-flight wifi to track election results. Despite my headphones, he kept me posted with regular nudges and pointing to things on his screen, which was locked on foxnews.com. Finally I succumbed and removed my headphones to respond to something he said. With just a few short questions, I quickly established that his only source of news is a Fox-like-something. Fox News on cable, foxnews.com, the Wall Street Journal. Nothing else.
He claimed that only Fox is ‘unbiased and doesn’t have the liberal agenda.’ I asked how Fox could be unbiased if it didn’t somehow represent the liberal agenda. He didn’t have an answer. I asked if he was surprised when Obama handily beat Romney in the last presidential election. Shocked, he said, shocked and dismayed. I observed that the only people on the face of the planet who were shocked by the election results were people who lived in the Fox bubble, and asked if that didn’t concern him, even a little tiny bit. No, he said, shaking his head sadly, and then he suggested that I must be not very well informed, probably one of those left wing nut-jobs and possibly anti-American for suggesting such a thing. He was no longer particuarly lovely in my mind and I put my headphones back on, leaving him to his election monitoring.
Here’s the thing. For me it wasn’t an observation about fox or politics, it was an observation about the power of media and its influence to spin a story anyway it likes. If you only get your news from one source, you are hearing and believing only one version of what happens in the world – one narrative, one storyline. And I would suggest that if the story is always something that makes you nod your head, never anything that makes you question the source, maybe that isn’t a good thing. Surrounding yourself with the news equivilent of ‘yes-men’ might not be the best way to understand the world. If you seriously never listen to alternative narratives with a ‘seek first to understand’ mindset (instead of a ‘seek first to destroy’ mindset), you probably aren’t very well informed about the world, although you may be very well informed about why you are right and everyone else is an uninformed nut-job.
I happen to read Fox News on a reasonably regular basis. I also read the New York Times, Huffington Post, The Atlantic, Fast Company, Wired, The Economist, and when I’m in the mood I curl up with People magazine and get caught up on what really matters. I don’t read any of them reguarly – I like to mix it up a bit. Fox isn’t good or bad, but it is a single view point. If you limit your world view to one narrow perspective, you miss out on all these incredibly rich, amazing, and interesting things. And, you very likely will be one of only a very small handful of people who gets honestly surprised by an election result.
The same holds true in business. If you only listen to one voice, or one agenda, if you don’t have someone around who makes you wonder sometimes about things, you might be so isolated you don’t even realize the opportunities that are passing you by. You aren’t fighting the right fights, you aren’t winning the right wars. Seek out the people who are different from you, who have different ideas, who sound a little crazy, and maybe you won’t end up being shocked by something the rest of the world knew was happening.