Learning vs Knowing
As we enter the third quarter of 2022 and the possibility of an economic downturn becomes more and more likely, anxiety and uncertainty are expected to take hold.
Uncertainty is often associated with anxiety, ambiguity, and confusion; particularly in the traditional business approach where “certainty” is the gold standard of business outcomes, avoiding uncertainty as much as possible becomes the norm.
Generally speaking we, as business owners, belong to one of these three groups:
- being comfortable with uncertainty
- being uncomfortable with uncertainty, and
- being irritated with uncertainty
Uncertainty is messy, it’s disorganized, it’s unstructured, and it’s organic. When doubt exists and the answer or path is not known beforehand, that is the essence of uncertainty.
One of the main goals of the “learning” approach known as constructivism is to prepare one for uncertainty by helping them feel comfortable in postulating, guessing, hypothesizing, conjecturing, and testing their theories.
Unfortunately, we have socialized ourselves into believing that being uncertain is a bad thing, and as a result, few are willing to take a risk and demonstrate their vulnerability. The ability to manage and be comfortable in uncertainty is vital to business success, especially as we enter another phase of uncertainty with the economy.
If you aren’t locked into knowing, you can focus on the horizon, pivoting, testing, and moving through the rocky terrain with agility and dexterity, where curiosity reigns supreme. It means being open to contrary ideas and beliefs. Companies that focus on learning ask way more questions rather than dictating what to do.
Being in a Learning mode means you accept that the world will always be more complex than you can ever be; while understanding that what you know is often the biggest hindrance keeping you from what you need to know.
With that understanding in place, the quest begins for asking more, better, questions to find solutions to problems that exist and are coming.
The other end of the spectrum is Knowing, a sign that “knowing” has appeared is a lack of questions or a defensive position. As we get older it’s very easy to become trapped in a comfort zone of things we believe to be true.
As a business owner, it’s incredibly easy to fall into the quicksand of Knowing. We no longer challenge whether our beliefs are valid. Instead, we reflexively know the answers to everything we consider important.
You run your business day after day needing to make constant decisions. Your employees and customers look to you for answers. Slowly and insidiously, you unconsciously begin to believe you have to have all the answers.
At its worst you always have an answer for why trying something new won’t work, then wonder why no one comes to you with ideas anymore. Your future ends up being a product of only what you “know”. Your decisions are based solely on what’s worked in the past.
If you look at the root cause of why many businesses fail you don’t need to look farther than “It’s just the way we do things around here” and “we’ve always done it that way.”
If you think about the differences at both ends of the spectrum it’s clear to see why leaders of companies who are comfortable learning typically dominate their industries. Competent organizations consistently ask better questions.
They’re not afraid to try new things, quick to throw out ideas that don’t work while retaining the knowledge gained from the experience. They’re not afraid to challenge processes that worked in the past to streamline and create more efficient workflows.
It’s hard to come up with solutions when you’re blind to the fact that your ego is the largest hurdle in solving the problem at hand. Companies with a culture of knowing exist in a constant state of blame, transactional relationships, poor morale, and lethargic employee engagement.
As the leader of your organization, do you pursue what you ‘need’ to know, or are you hung up on making decisions based only on your current knowledge base?
The best, brightest and most successful leaders realize the biggest obstacle they face on their journey is a personal one.
What you need to know will always outpace what you already know. Find a way to tackle that insight and watch what happens during the coming recession; when preparation and agility will separate those who exit this downturn on top, or holding on by their fingernails.
Need help getting ready? Reach out to us.