When does ‘I don’t know’ mean ‘I don’t know’?

When does ‘I don’t know’ mean ‘I don’t know’?

I’d like to hedge a bet and say never, or at least rarely!


One of the challenges of being human, is the limited capacity of our ‘thinking’ brain. Whilst it is powerful in many ways, it is also quite limited in its capacity to think though complexity.


The pre-frontal cortex (the bit that makes us intelligently human) is a linear processor. It loves problems that fit into an A + B + C = D structure. When you find yourself going around in circles over a problem or challenge, it will often be because either the A, or the B, or the C is missing. Until that piece of the puzzle is discovered or sourced, the equation can’t be processed and your thinking goes into a kind of loop.


This is where having a buddy with effective conversation skill can help because for the same reasons (ie, linear), we find it difficult to analyse our own thinking in ways that can release the blockage.


And for the same reason yet again, we always take the easy way out and an ‘I don’t know’ will elicit a rescue response from someone else who then takes on some of the responsibility for resolving your issue.


Couple this with our innate desire to help others, and an urgency to move the issue along, and an horrific fear of silence , and we fall into a time-consuming series of conversations that still don’t solve the problem.


The reality is that, in most cases, you DO know the answer. People do know what they need and the answer is not in their thinking brain – it’s more intuitive than that and they need to reflect much more deeply and in a non-linear way. This kind of thinking requires time and space.


Helping someone proactively to do this thinking is a skill that can be learned.


However, when I hear the words ‘I don’t know’ I have trained myself to hear ‘I’m not sure, just give me a minute!’ and I SHUT UP.


Giving others the time and space to really think is a gift.


It doesn’t hurt.


The discomfort of the silence will be broken by someone, let it be them.


Try it and see what happens.


Have a great day…

Bring Back the Art and Power of Conversation

Bring Back the Art and Power of Conversation

‘We are heading into a two-year change transformation phase’


I hear this all the time from clients. What do they really mean? They mean that things are not quite working the way they want or need, and they need to change how things are done – they need to change the culture.


On the surface, culture is what people do and how things get done. It is visible in processes, meetings, client interactions and relationships. It is visible in the web of networking across the organisation (or lack thereof). And it is most evident in the conversations that take place.


Beneath the surface, the DNA of culture is in the neural patterns of the collective ‘brain’ of the organisation. The thinking and behavioural patterns of every employee form a ‘collective brain’ and are influenced by how behaviour and thinking is focused around them. Those patterns can be changed through the consistent and effective redirection of attention – through the conversations that take place, particularly the conversations that involve leaders.


Change is all about conversations. And most importantly, change happens one conversation at a time – NOT IN ONE CONVERSATION!


Not at one strategy retreat…

Not in one launch or email communication…

Not in one blanket project plan or strategy guide…

But one powerful, effective and useful conversation at a time.


Investing in developing the skill of powerful, effective and useful conversation, then, is a worthwhile investment.


It’s time to bring back the art and power of conversation in the workplace.


Have a great day!