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To know or not to know?

“The less I know, the better I can do my job.” I heard this yesterday on TV and it got me thinking about how much most of us need to know to do our jobs. Our competitive edge comes from knowledge. So what are the circumstances in which we might want not to know things? If you work in an industry that’s likely to get hit in the head by the effects of global warming, maybe you’d rather not know. How about competition from China, and India? Plenty of people still prefer not to think about what the rise of those countries, and their amazingly entrepreneurial energy, means, even though this is a huge issue for people entering the workforce today, and will, like global warming, change the world our children and grandchildren will live in.

I wonder how many soldiers in Iraq today do what my youngest brother did, as a commando in Delta Force during the first Iraq War: he subscribed to the Economist so he would, “know what was going on in the world.” That’s the point of Berkshire’s publishing program, to find ways to help a wide variety of people–high school and college students as well as business professionals–learn more about their world. Fortunately, the rest of us aren’t acting under orders, and when we know more about what’s going on, we have more flexibility than soldiers to change our course, and to do things differently. We can do our jobs better because we know more, and we can make changes in our companies, our professions, and our world.

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