The positive power of confusion

Have you ever noticed that people seem to know how to do what they aren’t doing? Those who don’t do – know.

It’s easy to know how-to-do something you’re not doing.

During seminars/training, people come to a point where they think they know. Being told how to do things makes them feel they can do them. I call this the illusion of perceived knowledge.


You can burst the illusion of perceived knowledge by saying, “Ok, now do it on your own.”  It doesn’t take long for casual confidence to become confusion.  Doing new things reveals that we don’t know as much as we think.

Confusion is a teachable moment.

Creating confusion

Ask people to do things they haven’t done before

Give them guidance and support

Let them struggle without your intervention

You help others reach higher by
creating moderate levels of confusion.

Too much confusion

Moderate levels of confusion open minds and fuel passion. However, don’t push it too far or people will shut down in frustration. In addition, your organizational culture must embrace a positive, learning posture toward failure. Fail smart.

You might try this with arrogant sons or daughters, know-it-all employees, or over confident managers.


How can leaders lead and support others through their confusion without destroying the potential of confusion?

What dangers do leaders face if they create moderate levels of confusion?

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