How to Burst the Illusion of Perceived Knowledge and Help People Grow

Those who don’t do – believe they know.

It’s easy to feel you know how-to-do something you’re not doing. The things you aren’t doing seem easier than the things you are doing.

Head-knowledge creates the illusion of perceived knowledge. In  other words, being told how to do something makes you feel you know how to do it, even if you haven’t done it.

KNOWING ABOUT differs radically from KNOWING HOW.

Burst the bubble:

You can burst the illusion of perceived knowledge by saying, “Ok, now you do it.”  It doesn’t take long for the illusion of competence to become the reality of confusion.  

Trying on new behaviors reveals that you don’t know as much as you think.

Confusion is a teachable moment.

Over-helpful leaders prolong ignorance in others. But confusion opens minds.

How to create confusion:

  1. Ask people to do things they haven’t done before.
  2. Give guidance.
  3. Stay available.
  4. Let them struggle without your intervention.
  5. Intervene if frustration escalates. “How can I help?”
  6. Promote educational failure. “What are you learning?”
  7. Protect from danger or damage. “I need to warn you about a problem you haven’t considered.”

Help others reach higher by creating moderate levels of confusion.

Too much confusion:

#1. Don’t allow people to wallow in confusion. Moderate levels of confusion open minds and fuel passion. Too much confusion causes people to shut down.

#2. Organizational culture must embrace a positive posture toward failure that educates.

#3. Not every situation is a teachable moment. Fail fast. Fail cheap.


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

How might leaders create educational confusion?

When does confusion go too far?