I’m pretty darned good at making mistakes and misunderstanding things. But, being of a certain age, I thought I had become adept at recognizing my failings and admitting to them. Even apologizing for them, when necessary. The other day I saw two articles that brought me up short. What does this have to do with working in the Trades, you ask? Understanding is very much at the core of what the Trades are about. Understanding and empathizing with our customer’s needs, understanding diagnosis and trial & error, understanding plans and diagrams, understanding building and fire codes. The list is a lot longer than this, but you get the idea.
One article was about the Dunning-Kruger Effect (by the way there is a hilarious video clip of John Cleese describing the Dunning Kruger Effect at this link). Simply put, Dunning-Kruger means that we don’t know what we don’t know, and the less we know about something the more confident we feel that we understand it. That’s just how our brains work and I think it’s something that we run into every day:
- The customer that can’t understand why something can’t be done their way
- The contractor that doesn’t hear what the customer is really asking for
- The nagging call-back that defies solution
The cure for the Dunning-Kruger Effect may be as simple as being aware of it. Of course my confidence in that statement is in direct proportion to my ignorance about the topic.
The other article was about a Harvard research study. The study found that rejecting scientifically provable theories wasn’t always a function of intelligence or education. Perfectly intelligent people can believe that the Earth is flat or that climate change isn’t happening despite the some pretty overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The study found that we treat evidence more like a lawyer would than like a computer would. That means that if we find evidence compelling (i.e. we find it agreeable with our own thinking) then we are more likely to accept it as true. That’s a pretty sobering thought.
What these articles mean to me is that understanding is an imperfect tool. I will have to be more vigilant about understanding that I don’t understand what I thought I understood.