Skill Assessment: How Do You Do "I Don't Know?"

Effectively managing what we don't know is an important part of positively influencing others.

There are two forces at work here:

1. I don't know something that I need to know.

This is what David Allen calls an "open loop" - something we know needs to get done that is unfinished. Too many of these and our stress goes through the roof. The powerful part of closing knowledge-based open loops is, unless you forget it, that loop is closed for good. Once you know something, you know it forever, regardless of whether you have retained the ability to access it or not.

The next time you are faced with a situation where you can learn something you know you need to learn, stop and take time to close that loop.

2. I know there are literally billions of things I don't know.

"Effectively smart" people are those people who leverage their knowledge for meaningful good. A big part of their effectiveness comes from their ability to simultaneously juggle three dynamics:

  • Knowing they don't know everything about everything.

  • Being okay with and actually frank about this fact (because another part of their effectiveness is derived from their specialty knowledge - being really, really smart about a handful of subjects.)

  • Being able to not worry about the things they don't know, focus on the things they do know and surround themselves with people who can fill in the blanks.

Processing Questions for PLI Curriculum Teachers/Trainers:

1. What open loops are in your life?

2. What actions can you take to close them?

3. What are the subjects that you do know?

4. Why is it important to surround yourself with people who can fill in the blanks?

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