September 2017, article published originally in El Periódico de Catalunya
They’re everywhere and have a serious disability. It’s an intense auditory deficiency. Sometimes it develops little by little. As the years pass, and the promotions, the tympanum begins to give and becomes incapable of transmitting anything. What for? If they’re already convinced of their own ideas? At other times, deafness is related to zeros: those in the bank account. The ones that suffer most severely are those who have both problems: success and millions. Although they’re rich, poor things they and those around them.
They are a species of human being evolved from Homo sapiens. They are Homo deafens. I know many of them. I see them on Steering Committees, Boards of Directors, and governing bodies, or even in family businesses, talking about innovation.
Who hasn’t seen them? Do the acid test, or the hearing test, either way. The first thing we need is a supposed deaf person (I’ve had some as students at IESE; I can lend you one when you’d like). Talk to him and tell him something very evident, and I mean very. You’ll notice right away, if he’s a real one, how your words enter into a black hole and your interlocutor – to give “it” a name – has put a screen saver in his ear. These beings have the innate ability to ignore the indisputable. They’re admirable in their denial of what is certain. Another way to uncover a deafens is to observe his attitude when he appears to be asking for advice. He’ll make it look like he’s consulting with you but if you attempt to make an innovative proposal, you’ll soon see that it is a futile exercise, considering that at no time is the auditory system of the deafens activated or processing anything you say to him.
The homo deafens can be sometimes found on Steering Committees, Boards of Directors, or even in family businesses, and use to think, if it works for me, why should I act differently? But sometimes listening is the most difficult thing, the most disrupting and innovative.
Homo deafens are caught in flight but above all on the ground, sitting in their huge offices, at the vertex of companies, managing projects and budgets, but above all, the broken dreams and desperate hearts of their collaborators (working with an individual of this species provides very little satisfaction; I speak from experience). It’s sad, but now we have numerous representatives of this species who are appreciated precisely for being that: Homo deafens. It seems that being deafens, for example in politics, is fashionable, cool, trades high. It’s so sad.
To the successful and millionaires of the world, to not mutate into deafens, you must stay alert. It’s understandable to be transformed into one of them, because they have very powerful negative reinforcement. They think, if it works for me, why should I act differently? The interesting questions for me, however, are others: What would I be capable of achieving if I were a Homo listens? How much better would things be? How much would we innovate? Sometimes listening to our surroundings is most complicated. Bosses (and I know many) who, in general, are admired are Homo listens – brave professionals with courageous ears. Sometimes listening is the most difficult thing, the most disrupting and innovative. Let’s listen more.