How do you know what you know?

May 8, 2006

I refer to myself as an extroverted thinker. That’s shorthand for – I haven’t a clue what I know until I start talking to someone – that’s why you’ll see frequent references here to “conversations”. Conversations are my key strategy for understanding myself and I’ve also found in my consulting experience that conversations are the most important strategies in my toolkit. If I can’t be in a conversation with someone – how can we work out what we know? And if we can’t work out what we know, how can we work out the bits that we don’t know?

Following on from yesterday’s post it occurred to me that once we move into the unconscious competence domain it is increasingly difficult to work out what it is we actually do know. We take it for granted, and we often take for granted that other people also know..
One way in which I am generating data for my PhD research is via interviews….nothing new in that I hear you say. But one of the primary interviewees is me. Over the course of the next few years I will ask colleagues, my supervisor and various others to interview me about the research and my findings. I am totally convinced that it will be during those conversations, as distinct from sitting at my computer writing, that I will really get an authentic sense of what it is I know. Something will happen when someone asks me a question I haven’t considered before and I will answer from a place I don’t normally visit – somewhere in the middle will land an insight that’s new.
When I’m working with clients I place a huge value on conversation, interview and informal chat. It’s in those moments that we collectively work out what we are struggling to know and also affirm what it is we are certain of. Unconscious competence keeps the show on the road but from time to time we need to take a moment to reflect on how we managed to make it all unconscious…and more importantly, the “it” that we do unconsciously.
Interviews are a fantastic way of doing that and I never fail to me amazed at what happens in the space “between”.