Decision Making Hampered By Ignorance

Hans Rosling  is a Swedish medical doctor, academic, and statistician and he has some very sobering things to say about our global ignorance.

Working originally in public health, he grew increasingly concerned at the number of people he came across whose views on global health were predicated on ignorance of the facts.

He soon came to see that this global ignorance was not just confined to the area of health but pervaded much of the thinking across multiple areas of enquiry.

In 2005 he founded, with his son Ola Rosling, the Gapminder Foundation and its mission is to:

Fight devastating ignorance with fact-based worldviews that everyone can understand.

Their initial activity was to develop the Trendalyzer software which converts statistical numbers into animated and interactive graphics which tell a story that all can understand – based on the facts. (This software was purchased by Google in 2007).

In this entertaining TED talk from the June 2014 Berlin TED conference, Hans and Ola Rosling share with us their insights as to what underpins our global ignorance.

They argue that there are three things which produce skewed information on which we often base our views of the world and subsequently our decisions:

  • Personal Bias – based on our upbringing and experiences
  • Outdated Facts – used as if they were still current
  • News Bias – that tells us that things are better or worse than they really are (i.e. never let the facts get in the way of a good story.)

This is a cautionary tale about challenging our assumptions – before making major decisions that can impact our organisation.

The talk is well worth a look and Hans and Ola do suggest some guides that may help to counter our inbuilt ignorance. The talk is called “How not to be ignorant about the world”.

More information on the Gapminder Foundation can be found at

In 2009 Hans Rosling was listed as one of 100 leading global thinkers by Foreign Policy Magazine, and in 2011 as one of 100 most creative people in business by the Fast Company Magazine. In 2011 he was elected member of the Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences and in 2012 as member of the Swedish Academy of Sciences.

So…worthy of listening to, I think.

Posted in - Strategy