We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know … Do We?

“The Almighty has His own purposes.”

Abraham Lincoln in his Second Inaugural Address ( 1865)

Well, I can’t disagree with this one …

How often have you been mystified by the working of the world?

Shoot, for that matter, how often have you been flabbergasted by the happenings in your workplace?

By the way, the title of today’s post is NOT a printing error.  It refers to a sometimes misunderstood part of problem analysis and decision-making.      Here’s a Johari window compliments of BusinessBalls.com which conveys the idea neatly,along with my application to learning:

johari window model diagram

Open/Free Area:

We know some things ~ I can create a series of chords on the guitar.  Others can hear me play those few chords I know (I kill on 3-4 chord rock classics:).

As leaders, what do we know we know?  

How do we know we really know what we think we know?

Hidden Area:  

We know we do not know some things ~ I know the chord Amin7aug exists, but darned if I know how to play it.  Others are all too aware of my inability to play this chord correctly.

As leaders, what do we NOT know that we should?  

How will we learn what we need to know?

Blind Area:  

Since this area involves things others know about me, but are not visible to me, I am not sure about a good example.  Maybe I’m better at playing the guitar than I think … or maybe I’m much worse:)  This is why appropriate feedback is so useful to us as leaders and managers.

As leaders , how will we find out what we do not know that others know about us?  

How ready are we to hear someone else’s perception of us?

Unknown Area:  

We do not know what we do not know.  Awkwardly said, but correct … when we are not aware of something’s existence, we do not consider it in any way.  I know nothing about any advanced techniques of guitar playing and am at a point where I do not choose to seek them out.

As leaders, how will we find what we are not even now aware of?  

What will give us access to previously unknown information?

Pondering some questions about what I know I know I don’t know I don’t know in the Heartland … I think?


About Ignorance and Expectations …

“The magic of first love is our ignorance that it can ever end. “

Benjamin Disraeli in Henrietta Temple (1837) Book 4 chapter 1

So Disraeli (of all people) is talking about that blush of emotion and optimism that we experience when we fall in love for the very first time … unlike the feeling that we have after 30 some years of marriage:)

This works the same way when you are talking about a business relationship or venture.   Do any of these phrases sound familiar?

Short-term Thinking with Long-Term words:  “I can’t imagine ever not loving you.

When we start a new project, we often talk long-term without considering the short-term.

Today we begin a new era in customer service”

“This restructuring will allow us to meet the challenges of tomorrow”.

My personal favorite:  “We are fully committed to this venture.”

We are usually optimists … until things fall apart:  “We’re gonna be happy forever, I promise

“We stand today on the brink of a new frontier in portable communication devices.”

“We are 100% invested in the success of this project.  There’s no going back.”

“We have complete confidence in the soundness and safety of our products.”

The Ability to Live In the Moment is Valuable … as long as it’s the real moment:  “I just want everything to stay this way forever!

“There will always be an England” … just like Persia, Rhodesia, and the Ottoman Empire.

We are THE leaders in our field.”

“We’re too big to fail.” (Sorry, could not resist this one:)

If I sound a tad cynical, I’m really not.  Just realistic about human nature and our wish to always believe in happy endings.

After all, the couple on the bench did not get there by dancing in the rain.  They had to live a lot of days and nights together.

Same with business relationships and projects … start strong, but remember most things are more marathon than sprint.

Optimism is a strong and valuable trait, which provides us with energy and motivation.

However, with that dash of reality, optimism can lead us into some very dark places.

What are YOU being optimistic about?  

What is the reality behind the optimism?

Looking for that rush of “first love rosy thinking” in the Heartland …


Don’t Know or Don’t Care?

“For fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”

Alexander Pope in An Essay on Criticism (1711) Part III Line 66

So which type of thinking does this statement represent?

… A cautionary slogan telling people who do not know much about something  that they should not be messing with it?

 … Or is this a challenge to move beyond the rational and what we can see to challenge the unknown?

Darned if I know.  I always thought this saying meant to bolster the fools among us by pointing out how heroic it is to engage in challenges that more thoughtful people would stay away from.

Of course, it might also represent the kind of thinking which sent the Light Brigade of the British cavalry, consisting of the 4th and 13th Light Dragoons, 17th Lancers, and the 8th and 11th Hussars, under the command of Major General theEarl of Cardigan  into the mouths of the Russian cannons on the heights near Balaklava on October 25, 1854.

What does this familiar statement mean to you?

Your response will tell you quite a little bit about how you view the world, challenges, and how inclined you are toward rational or emotive thinking.

…  Or does a middle ground exist where we avoid the cannons, but still strive for the heights?

Trying to decide whether I will join the others galloping toward those deadly heights in the Heartland ….


Why They Do Not Listen ….

I was recently asked about change.

 Specifically, why organizations sometimes ask for advice from external consultants, but then do not use it for anything.

My first response:  “What do you mean ‘sometimes’?”

Second Thoughts:  They do the same thing with employees.

Serious Reflection:  Finally I settled down and came up with these five possibilities:

1) The organization is not serious about change, but needs to present an image that they are so.

This is more common than you would think.  The president reads an article on the plane ride and creates a new corporate initiative.  Sometimes the organization only desires the appearance of change.  Think in terms of entrenched interests.

Sometimes resistance is telling us something about problems with the approach and sometimes it is just illustrating the people and culture.

2) The organization is serious about change, but already knows what they want.  

Others are involved only to find someone who will tell them what they want to hear.  Change will occur, but management desires the appearance of a democratic process or an image of inclusive strategies.

They’ll just keep asking until they find what we want to hear. 

3) Personality, personality, personality.

Sometimes it’s not about the facts or the content, but is about the relationship between the consultant and the client.  Underestimate this reason at your own risk.

 Just as all politics is local, all collaboration is personal.

4) Information critical to the process is kept from the consultant, resulting in flawed planning and counsel.

This might be unintentional  or intentional, and sometimes is downright Machiavellian.

Why would people withhold information?   Holding information creates a power dynamic, with the holder in the driver’s seat.  Holding information may allow an internal person to discredit an external person.

Some people like to start fires, so they can then save everyone by putting them out:)

5) The consultant is not very good at what they do and is delivering poor product.

If you are an external consultant, you ignore this possibility at your own risk.

Get some mentoring or at least some objective evaluation of what you do and how you do it.  Be open to suggestions for improvement and the need to change.   Consider your own strengths and weaknesses, and make some considered decisions about how to approach your work.

In other words, consult with yourself:)  Do the things you would do with facilitating with others during analysis, selection, implementation, and evaluation.

So what possibilities have I missed for why an organization might ask, but not use?

Trying to be  thoughtful in the Heartland ….


All The Balls Are In The Air …

“Honor the past

Live in the present

Build for the future”

Charlene Gillett

I don’t remember where I found this post and I cannot identify for certain which Charlene Gilett said this.  So much for acuracy and accountability online.

However, I can attest to the fundamental truths which are implied in each line.  Each of these perspectives are important and each should bring some questions into our minds, as we admire the brevity and wisdom of the sayer.

So, some questions this clear and cool March . . . 

Honor the Past

 Parades are nice, but insuring that bad things do not continue to happen is better.

What honorable things or events do we see when we look to our past?  

What do we see that was deemed honorable at the time and now looks different to our eyes and ears?

HOw might those good things be BEST honored? 

Live in the Present

Sometimes life seems to be all about either reviewing what has been and planning for what is to come.

How can we be fully in the present?  

What will we see, hear, and feel when we are fully in the present?

What gets in the way of being fully in the now?

Build for the Future

The future is coming, whether we like it or not.  The problem is that we don’t always know what shape it will take.

How do we plan for something we do not know?

Why do we sometimes not plan for the future?

What are the best things we can do to prepare for a future we cannot know?

Discuss amongst yourselves …

Trying real hard to juggle the past, present, and future whie doing justice to all three in the Heartland …