Ignorance is Bliss: The Argument for Change


There will always be segments of society and organizations that are resistant to changes, and slow to accept innovation. By contrast, some are so excited by every new thing that they hastily run down every rabbit trail. The sad result is the waste that can occur by either action.

I find the following a sad example of how tragic reluctance to accept new ideas can be. It is historical account of refusal to embrace change, and how it affected a whole nation.

Arpad Gerster, a young New York surgeon who would author the countries first surgical textbook based on Listerian principles (using sterilization through antisepsis), noted in his private memoirs that his generation of physicians considered the Garfield case a situation “where ignorance is Bliss”. – James A. Garfield by Ira Rutkow pg. 131

In 1881, President James A. Garfield was shot by an attempted assassin. But, history reveals, it is the assassination that should have failed. For it was the resistance to medical breakthroughs and innovations that actually cost the president his life. The wound was not fatal. His treatment was. Doctor Willard ‘Bliss’ was the lead medical attendant. He was one of many in the medical field of his day that rejected antisepsis as needed medical practice. It was new, and slow responders often reject what is new. Ultimately, infection killed the twentieth president. As an aside, Bliss also rejected the stethoscope as a practical medical tool.

Today’s vocational culture continues to morph daily, and ‘slow adaptors’ can sometimes be shocked by how quick they become relics. In order to stay current, and maximize every innovation and technology, one must possess an ability to ‘stretch’. Stretching simply stated is not being locked in by patterns, repetition, and tradition. A valid certainty is that tomorrow will be different from today. Thinking ‘outside the box’ is simply not enough. One must see where ‘the box is going’, and not be preoccupied with where it has been. Change can be frightening, but the only place you might not find it is from a vending machine. Always be willing to explore. It might be exciting. Every ‘new’ thing will not be the answer. However, failure to give open consideration can prove fatal. Staying on top means applying the mental energy to look and listen when new ideas come our way. Rejection of possibilities will leave us lagging behind the competition.

As a final thought, I attended a meeting several managers had about five years ago with the CEO of their company. One of the objectives stated by the company was to attract more professional and business clientele. When the managers were encouraged to provide their suggestions, they clamored for wi-fi to be made available in their locations for business customers.

“Why on earth would we want to do that?” the CEO replied.

As the New Year approaches, why not be an explorer. Be ambitious, and don’t rely on yesterday’s answers.

Have a great day!


written by James Anderson, Consultant and Life Coach for Expecting More


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