I wasted a lot of time recently trying to dialog with a friend about the election. I thought he was a smart guy until we reached round three of the email exchange. Then it became very clear to me that my friend was an ideologue.  Reason will not reach him. He will see and hear what he believes fits his narrow ideology. He’s blind to truth. When confronted with fact, he clings to rhetoric. Knowing I’m an Obama supporter, a conservative Obama supporter, my friend actually told me he’d rather die than vote for a socialist. Odd position for a pro-lifer. This guy voted for Bush twice presumably to avoid this self-imposed death penalty. Hey, I voted for Bush twice as well but for different reasons. Bush fooled me the first time with his rhetoric. And the second time? I just didn’t like Kerry. I regret the first vote.

McCain and Palin say the words that fit my friend’s ideology. It really doesn’t matter to him that McCain dumped his wife for a woman he met at a party. It really doesn’t matter to him that Sarah Palin was pregnant when she got married. It doesn’t matter that Palin abused her power as Alaska’s governor. And it doesn’t matter that “patriot” McCain chose Sarah Palin to suck in the “Joe Six Pack” vote and not because she’s qualified for the job. Nope. My friend is “a” conservative and if any of the aforementioned “slips” were committed by a democrat, he would be outraged. Under my friend’s definition of presidential qualifications, we have 2,700,900 who served in Vietnam from whom to choose. Of course, you’ll need to subtract the nearly 60,000 who died in that lost cause.

As a conservative, I can’t see anything in McCain that matches my values. Oh yes, I hear the words, but I don’t see the deeds. Maverick my ass.

Okay, this is a business blog. So here’s the point. If you are blinded by ideology you’re going to blow opportunities. You’ll miss big turns in the road. You’ll be the last to see new trends. You won’t see things at your own business that can be improved. You just won’t. Ideology blinds.

Here are some things I’ve been told by managers and CEOs in the past 6 months. Can you tell which are based on ideology and which are based on reason?

  • Global warming is just a plot by the left to weaken our economy.
  • The telescope business is dying because only old men are interested in astronomy.
  • The current economic problem has many dimensions. We’ll need to watch our spending for a few months.
  • This whole economic mess is Bush’s fault. It goes straight to all the rest of the corruption tied to his administration.
  • Building nuclear power plants is bad because the waste product is so dangerous.
  • Our infection rate is at or below the national average so we don’t need to work on that. (Hospital in the mid west)
  • We’re going to hold off on fixing our website until after the election. If Obama gets in, we might not make it through FY 09.
  • Blogging and these online communities will go out of fashion soon. People don’t have time for that stuff.
  • Our website isn’t important because all of our business has to be “quoted”. Contractors don’t look at the internet for the kinds of items we sell.
  • We don’t need to improve our service. According to the customers we’ve surveyed, it’s good enough.
  • We can’t cut costs without reducing head count.

Can you see how ideology can stifle improvement? All the above comments have a positive alternative.

Now’s the time to put dogma aside and do some thinking. This country is in serious trouble and we need thinkers a lot more than we need loyal followers. If all of us did more thinking and less lock-stepping, we’d see solutions begin to rise from the ashes. If we cling to ideology, we’ll remain stagnant. And, my friends, you can’t blame congress or the president for that.

Start thinking.

Chris Reich, Author of TeachU’s Business Talk Blog
[email protected]