The subsidiary’s numbers for the month didn’t look good. The decline over six months was continuing, and the CEO had convened a leadership team meeting to take some major decisions. Most attending believed that some market repositioning and restructuring needed to happen. The Human Resources (HR) Director, however, was resistant because staff wouldn’t like it. The CEO, unruffled and calm, simply asked, ‘What exactly is worrying staff at the moment?’ The HR Director said that in one region staff believed they should have a pay rise, in another there was upset that refreshment points often ran out of coffee in the afternoon, and that there was a general feeling that they should have better IT equipment.  The HR Director also said that the CEO was unpopular.  

The CEO smiled wryly and reminded the HR Director that whereas acting in the best interest of the whole company was in their job description, popularity was not. The CEO then reminded the HR Director to focus on the big picture and the company’s overall needs rather than pockets of noise which had little bearing on the major decisions that needed to be taken. The HR Director said little for the rest of the meeting. If you’ve had a leadership role then you might relate to this tale, because decisions are always taken against a background of noise containing a spectrum of comment, opinion, hearsay, and questionable information.

Noise, a word that first appeared in the 12th Century, has described the hum of daily life’s background information and tittle-tattle for a long time. In today’s world, social media produces much of this noise. The background level is the highest it has ever been because newspapers, online news sites, celebrities, politicians, and many others, feed off social media content to create the stories and content needed to fill airtime and their own objectives.  Today’s noise seems more important than it is, especially for recent generations who are not afraid to say what they think about anything using social media.

What’s the point of contributing your thoughts and feelings on social media platforms when it’s just adding to today’s background noise? Is anyone interested for more than a few seconds? Does adding to life’s noise make any difference when the best leaders make decisions in the interests of whatever entity they are leading, regardless of the background noise?  The Badger chatted to his teenage nephew about these questions, and it was soon clear that the answers depend on your age, your values, and your life experience.  However, the youngster noted that although many of their friends spent more time feeding social media than spending quality time with each other, they did wonder what their life really gained by contributing to the noise of the modern world. Perhaps teenagers have more wisdom than we give them credit for… 


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