Why Business Leaders Should Have Knowledge of Historical and Current Events
NEGATIVE NEWS HAS an adverse effect on us. For instance, one 2022 study that examined the impact of violent Facebook content on women from five cities in Pakistan found that it made them “feel insecure, fearful, and distressed”—and that “the world is a nasty place to live in.” Another study found that “repeated bombing-related media exposure” regarding the Boston Marathon bombings “was associated with higher acute stress than was direct exposure.” Moreover, consumption of negative news is linked to various cognitive biases, according to internal medicine physician and New York Times bestselling author Austin Perlmutter.
While business leaders should take care of their mental and emotional health and not read negative news 24/7, it’s critical that they seek and maintain some level of knowledge about current events. They should also strive to learn more about historical events—as Winston Churchill (paraphrasing Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana) once said, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.”
With robust knowledge of current and historical events, business leaders can make more ethical business decisions, support their employees better and be more prepared to speak up against injustices.
Making More Ethical Business Decisions
Being more knowledgeable about current and historical events paves the way for making more ethical business decisions.
For instance, say an executive wants to order office decorations and is choosing from a list of retailers. If that executive is aware one of the retailers on that list does not have sustainable practices, they might opt to go with one that does. Or, an executive might be considering taking a private jet for an upcoming business trip, but upon reading about the history and current state of climate change, decides to fly commercial. These decisions may not change the world in the grand scheme of things, but if everyone did just one thing to impact the world positively, I’m willing to bet we’d make some level of progress.
Supporting Employees Better
The workforce is comprised of people from various diverse backgrounds, especially in the era of remote work. These diverse backgrounds are invaluable as they lend the business world a wealth of different perspectives that give rise to creative ideas and innovations.
The news we hear can impact us in different ways. An employee of, say, Iranian descent will likely be affected by news about protests in Iran. An employee of Ukrainian heritage will likely be affected when they hear updates about the war in Ukraine. An employee who lives in a state that suffered a mass shooting will likely be affected by that news. Employees will react differently to different events, and business leaders should never assume a particular employee will have a specific reaction. But by being aware of what’s happening around the world and being perceptive of their employees, business leaders can find opportunities to support their employees better. For example, if a manager notices that an employee from a particular state is less upbeat and productive and knows that state recently suffered a natural disaster, they can proactively offer the employee some time off to emotionally and mentally recuperate, as well as connect them with resources that can help, such as mental health support.
Speaking Up in Light of Injustices
Another way business leaders can be proactive is by speaking up in light of injustices — specifically, amplifying the voices of people calling for change and supporting them in other ways (for instance, a business leader in the art industry can collaborate with an artist in a part of the world who is trying to influence change).
Business leaders have leverage in their communities. People are likely to listen and follow in their footsteps when they say something. One business leader speaking up can start a domino effect, kickstarting myriad conversations that will shape the public dialogue and lead to more people becoming knowledgeable about what has happened, what’s happening and what might happen. After all, as the saying goes: “Knowledge begets knowledge.”