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:
- Ask people to do things they haven’t done before.
- Give guidance.
- Stay available.
- Let them struggle without your intervention.
- Intervene if frustration escalates. “How can I help?”
- Promote educational failure. “What are you learning?”
- 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?
I always encouraged every member of my team down to the receptionist to come up with new ideas. The way I looked at it – they know their job better then me and have ideas on how to improve. When you give people the opportunity to think and grow by themselves, they can surprise you with ideas you never ever thought of that can benefit a team, an entire business unit or a whole company. When you come from a ‘tell others what to do’ when you are not the expert, that in itself creates unwarranted confusion that causes resentment. Why not create a confusion day once a month and let everyone create confusion with permission. A single hour or half day of chaos might generate exceptional ideas for the future.
Thanks Caro. Don’t you love it when people rise. The only issue is we have to give them opportunity and a safety net.
I love the idea of a confusion day. .. Maybe a confusion meeting. How can we stir things up? It might be fun to bring someone in from another sector to ask questions and make observations.
“#2. Organizational culture must embrace a positive posture toward failure that educates.”
You had me up till here. Ain’t gonna happen.
I was one of 2 direct reports to the Chairman of a $500M company. I failed big time on a project entrusted to me. Like projects had never been entrusted to anyone other than the Chairman. One of the worst days of my life. I was not looking forward to the response of this demanding genius who built his company from nothing beginning 40 years ago.
His response… “Well I guess you won’t do that again.”
That made me a better employee and the company became better through my failure and the Chairman’s gracious response to my failure.
Thanks Mike. You’re story reminded me of the story when Jack Welch blew the roof of a manufacturing plant. The next day he met with his boss’s boss. The boss’s boss asked, “What did you learn?”
Jack was young and ended up spending his entire career with GE.
Wow, this post brings the phrase containing the words “nail on the head” to mind. “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” = very good teacher.
“How might leaders create educational confusion?” – request walk the walk, not only talk the talk.
“When does confusion go too far?” – when it looks like it turning to, becoming interference.
I’m confused …
How is this any different than the perennial “good leader” deliberately sowing confusion by creating a crisis to be the one to resolve it?
DuPont’s (Alfred, that is, of the Florida fame) right hand Ed Ball closed each day with a whiskey and toast,
“Confusion to our enemies!”
I love this post. I work for a company now that is very open to failure as a teachable moment. Question for you though, how would you deal with someone in your department that doesn’t realize they are “confused”?
I am not in a management role, but I recently moved to a new position, and my replacement for my previous role works right next to me. I sometimes overhear this person making assumptions about company processes that I know are wrong. I try to guide this person as much as I can without being a helicopter co-worker. I have also reported it to my supervisor (this person’s supervisor as well) from a “heads up” they need some coaching, standpoint. Any other advice?