Sometimes "I don't know" IS The Right Answer
Last week a colleague was asking me my thoughts on who would win the Australian Federal Election. My answer was simply, "I don't know." After some discussion about his ideas (he thought Labor would scrape by, but admitted that he was usually wrong about these things), I explained that I thought that there were so many different leanings on different sides of the continent that it was difficult to predict the outcome.
As it turns out, I was right. "I don't know" was pretty much everyone's answer after Saturday's poll. The Australian people in general seemed to be saying it of which party to govern the country. Even the Australian Electoral Commission is still saying "I don't know" when it comes to who has won certain seats. Nobody knows what the make-up will be of a new federal government. Even the Governor-General had a bit of an "I don't know" in response to her relationship to Labor power-broker Bill Shorten (she's now his mother-in-law if you hadn't heard) and its effect on her standing as potential arbiter of any new government arrangements.
It's all too common for people (politicians included) to give a definitive answer on a topic, even when they know nothing about it. But the reality is that a null response of "I don't know" is often perfectly acceptable. Mathematicians use undefined variables for the sake of determining an overall logic and then later plug in the details. They do this even in whole-scale theory, using whole sets of undetermined information as stand-ins while they work on what they do know.
Stating that you do know something for certain and then being exposed as deliberately misleading is the surest way to undermine people's confidence in you - for more than obvious reasons. This goes to the very heart of integrity and honesty.
Consider how the unknowns may be admitted in your daily work and in your communication. And consider how admitting that you don't know may ENHANCE your credibility, rather than undermine it.
Yes, there are some people who like others around them to ALWAYS know the answer. In my experience, most of those people run into extreme trouble at one point or another. The world is full of too much information and too many variables for everyone to be absolutely certain of everything. In my work with numerous types of businesses and individuals, and in my work around the world with people from every walk of life, the vast majority have preferred a straight-up "I don't know", but followed by the reassurance of "I'll find out for you" or "Let's work it out together", if it was an area for which I was responsible.
Sometimes "I don't know" really is the right answer.
The Frontiers of Cognitive Neuroscience
Some may wonder how this applies to business and I will write more about this in future articles, but I recently went to a conference held by Sonic Learning in Perth, on "neuroplasticity" - their guest speaker was Dr. Norman Doidge, author of "The Brain That Changes Itself". The sessions were fascinating and provided further insight into a field that I began investigating 10 years ago while I was a graduate student at The University of Western Ontario.
The upshot of the day's information is that there are substantial ways for us to "rewire" the brain - will and "mind" can work together to achieve incredible things. We saw videos of a blind person throwing balls into baskets with absolute precision and a person with phantom pain from an amputated arm learning to "move" his absent arm and relieve his pain. It's amazing to consider how our thoughts can literally change our bodies.
Sonic Learning also demonstrated their cognitive skills development software - i.e. FastForWord for children and Brain Fitness Programs for adults - created by PositScience. The positive results from these programs have been well researched and documented.
The New York Times recently ran an article on several cognitive scientists going on a camping trip and their musings on cognition while they hiked, rafted and "got away from it all". It's an interesting, though longer, read if you would like to visit it at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/16/technology/16brain.html?pagewanted=4&_r=1&th&emc=th
WIB/MIB Forum Networking Event - Sept 2 - Raising funds for Cerebral Palsy
Margaret Cunniffe, COO at Rhodium, is running a Women In Business/Men In Business Forums Morning Tea on Sept 2. She is kindly using this opportunity to raise funds for The Centre for Cererbral Palsy. Representatives from the Centre will be running Margaret's raffle, which she holds at these events.
Details are on linkedin at http://events.linkedin.com/NETWORKING-Morning-Tea-Event/pub/379087
September 3 Networking Event
Peter McLean will speak on developing your networking and communication skills at Reallogic group's combined networking seminar.
Learn how networking can maximise your business effectiveness. Communicate compellingly to create contacts that want to know more. Develop connections that build your business "intelligence".
DATE: Sept 3, 2010
Visit http://reallogic.com.au/ for more information.
“People Performance for Profit” Seminar - October 6
FBA (WA) is sponsoring our “People Performance for Profit” Seminar on October 6th, from 6-8 pm. This is a one and half hour seminar event with professional networking during the break and afterwards.
This seminar is a signature event packed with practical advice, examples and applications that you will be able to immediately take away to help grow your business. I will be presenting information about the absolute best practices that you can employ to lift your people’s performance at every turn – drawing on my experiences, research and work in human performance, client work and the best examples from companies that achieve extraordinary results.
We are talking with other groups about hosting this seminar at other dates. If your organisation would like to sponsor this seminar for your membership or clients, please call Peter directly at 9288 1780.
We will be providing more details as the date approaches, but reserve the time on your calendar now.
For more details on the seminar, visit http://www.lamplighter.com.au/viewStory/People+Performance+for+Profit+Seminar
Authentic Speaking Workshop - Oct 21-22
This is the last open workshop for 2010!
I work closely with all participants, drawing on over 23 years experience and training in Public Speaking and development, to help you make extraordinary changes to your confidence and speaking skill.
"It's been an inspiring journey for me . . . I'm speaking on an entirely different level." Recent graduate - one of Perth's busiest and experienced Learning and Development Officers
Venue: Guildford Landing Function Centre
Dates: Thurs - Fri, October 21-22
Times: 8:30 - 4:30 each day
There is a house being built next door to us. It's a two-storey dwelling that, fortunately, won't block out the sunlight in the living room every day, but it has given me and my wife some consternation. It's particularly interesting that the men working on the second storey - adding bricks, concrete and woodwork - feel the need to call down to me when I'm out in the front or the back: "How ya' goin? Looks like it's gonna be a nice day?" and so on.
I like getting to know people, so I usually call back and strike up a bit of a conversation with these guys - despite not knowing who they are, nor being likely to meet them again. (At least, I wouldn't remember who they are because I was just looking up shading my eyes as I squinted into the light.)
I asked the site supervisor on the first day or so, "How long will it take you to lay the second storey bricks?"
"Oh, about 5-7 days. 5 or less, if we're motivated."
Armed with this delightful information, I turned back into the house and informed my wife.
Funnily enough, almost 4 weeks later, the top storey has only just had the walls completed. A couple of days ago, the beams for the roof went up. Yes, there's been a little rain - but not 3 weeks worth.
I guess they just weren't "motivated."