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A friend recently suggested that I watch a film called Idiocracy. It’s a political satire about a dystopian future where everybody is foolish. The film’s basic premise is that our culture is dumbing us down: Everything from literature to film to politics. But in particular, they’re talking about just people getting dumber and politics, particularly in the United States and the world, getting dumber.

Predictive programming?

The film is somewhat prescient in terms of predicting sort of what happened around 2016. Again, no political commentary. I’m just commenting that they are pretty spot-on. There are some extraordinary things that they predicted.

There’s a problem with the film. There’s something that bothers me. I can’t help myself but bring this up. So as I mentioned, the film’s concept is that everybody’s getting stupider (I used that word intentionally) over time. To demonstrate this, one of the things that they do and show you all the dumb things that people do is they offer a chart plotted over time. 

It’s a line chart plotted over time that shows IQ going down and going down slowly over the years and then going down severely over hundreds of years. It starts at like 100 and then goes 97, 95, 90, 85 and drops down. It just goes towards zero, I mean, whatever it is.

The average IQ

The problem is, that doesn’t make any sense. The average IQ can’t be anything but 100. By definition, it’s 100. That’s what the average is. It’s 100. So it doesn’t matter whether people are getting more intelligent or dumber. It doesn’t matter whether we have a better education. It doesn’t matter whether we are dumbing down. None of that matters. The average IQ today is 100. Five years ago, it was 100. When the film was made in 2003, it was 100. Five hundred years from now in this dystopian future, assuming it exists or not, it’ll be 100. It will always be 100. Further, it has always been 100. Hence, that’s the definition.

The reason why this bugs me is not just the fact that I get caught up on details and things like this, and statistics, and more. In addition, (this is why it upsets me), the premise of the film is that the world is getting dumber because we are dumbing things down for the masses, making the masses dumber. Yet, what the movie did was dumb down statistics to make a point. Really? You are doing exactly what you are railing against. I wonder if they even know that.

The contradictions

I get that, in films, you have to take some creative license to get points across like The Big Short. I get it. You have to simplify things a little bit if you’re doing a film that you want millions and millions of people to see. There are not many economics or statistic dorks who are going to watch movies. You’re not going to sell many tickets. I get that. But man, don’t contradict the very premise of your entire film where you’re going off on a rant. That doesn’t work. Please don’t use it or find a better way or something. But you can’t do that in a film that rails about the dumbing down of culture. At one point, the guy who was not very smart, below average, was now the brightest person on the planet. Waking up five hundred years later, he says something like, “You got to do more reading and math and stuff.” And like, “Ah!”

Don’t try to oversimplify revenue cycle management

Why does this matter? It’s not just that hypocrisy and things like that bother me. There is a point to this in our industry and life: We shouldn’t try to dumb down things when it comes to financial data, revenue cycle management, and analytics. I get trying to simplify things to make decisions. That has extraordinary value. Still, we shouldn’t dumb things down. Also, we shouldn’t warp them. We should try to educate the people in our organization to better understand the data and come together and make decisions and pool our resources and be in cohesion. All are moving in alignment to get things done.

That means billers have to be educated on statistical methods, analytics, pivot tables, and other things, all the way up to managers, CFOs, even the sales guy with ADHD. No hate. I’m not throwing any shade at anybody. I mean, two-thirds of my people at Toshiba were on meds for ADHD, and they were good at what they did. They were tremendous and full-on on meds. But even that guy or gal who doesn’t have any interest in numbers whatsoever, we should still ensure they have the foundation. Otherwise, we’re not going to be successful.

Key takeaway

We can’t dumb things down. We have to educate the masses in our organizations. Again, no political commentary there. It’s just functional. How are we going to be successful? And how are we going to use data to be successful? It requires everybody to have a basic grasp of numbers.