in Business, Creativity, Motivation, Philosophy, Psychology

You Just Don’t Get It – Getting To Know What You Don’t Know

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.” — Confucius

So, you’ve offered an idea but it’s met by the rejection: “You just don’t get it.”

What do you do with that?

First you should get very clear on what it is that you’re not getting.

Asking people for examples of similar events/actions from the past might give you a better idea of what they’re getting at.

Simply guessing at what the issue is will hinder your progress, so I’d seriously advise you to dig deeper into what it is they want you to “get”.

If they can’t give you a straight answer then it’s clear that they don’t have a clear grasp of it either. This will be an opportunity for the both of you to sit down and get to the heart of the matter.

Let’s assume that they want you to get better at making better and faster decisions. Well, there’s only one way to go about it. Keep making decisions, and when you get them wrong analyze what it was you got wrong and why.

Apple & Pear

I’ll take the right one.

Was it that you based your decisions on bad information? That there wasn’t a realistic budget and time frame in place? That you didn’t consider how it would reflect on someone higher up? That you didn’t delegate responsibility? That it wasn’t practically applicable? That it didn’t fit the company culture? That it isn’t a sustainable model?

The root of the issue might be that you perhaps aren’t inclined to probe further or that you’re asking the “wrong” questions.

Perhaps you’re simply looking for the “right answer” instead of looking at the process of finding an answer?

This is basically the difference between learning what to think and learning how to think.

If you notice Rob at the office is sulking you can ask:

You: Hey Rob, are you angry?

Rob: Yes.

Good, your hunch was correct. But unless Rob is inclined to open up about why this doesn’t get to the heart of the issue.

You: Hey Rob, you seem angry. What’s up?

Rob: It’s these damn reports. I can’t make sense of them.

Now you’ve confirmed your hunch and gotten him to explain what the underlying issue is.

While some people might stop there, you should seek to understand why Rob isn’t able to make sense of them. Depending on his answer you can delve deeper into it.

Let’s say Rob reports to you and your boss has noticed his mood. The boss comes up to you and says: “Rob’s been in a mood the past couple of days.”

There are different levels of responses you can give depending on your engagement with him.

Low engagement: “Yes. Rob is angry.”

Medium engagement: “Yes. Rob is having a hard time with the reports.”

High engagement: “Yes. Rob is having a hard time with the reports. They aren’t making sense to him because he was on paternity leave while we restructured them. This has caused him to lag behind so he’s stressed out. I’ve signed him up for a crash course next week and will hand his work over to Linda.”

See, in the latter case you’ve engaged with Rob on a deeper level and found a way to resolve the issue.

The same is true when it comes to decision making. Your decisions are only as good as your ability to collect and sift through the relevant information/data.

This is far better than assuming that Rob’s just an “angry kinda guy”, that he’s having trouble at home, or whatever else you might conjure up.

Now, when it comes to doing this quickly it takes serious time and practice. Some things only come with experience.

However, reading books like Superforecasting by Philip Tetlock & Dan Gardner can help you along the way. Learning about Bayesian probability/thinking might do the trick too.

None of these are a cure-all to eliminate the issue completely, but they might point you in the right direction.


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