Last week was spent with my family, getting away from it in the wonderful isolation of the New Forest in Dorset. Feeding chickens and pigs, avoiding over-curious ponies, getting mild sunburn… And generally not thinking that much about work.

One thread that did come to mind, however, was how three (or four, depending on your views on abbreviation) seem to be at the core of an intelligent approach to most things, but also seem to be so hard to say. “I don’t know”.

We are in a period of oddity. Technology is changing the way in which we interact and communicate. Technology has also changed the way in which international business works so that we now find ourselves in a globalized economy the likes of which has never been seen before. Politics doesn’t really know where it’s at: the former threats of nation-states (Russia, Germany, France…) have disappeared to be replaced by amorphous threats that seem simultaneously both under- and over-played. The impending UK General Election seems both impossible to call and yet weirdly bland in content.

In all of that mess, anyone who with any certainty can say “I do know” is almost certainly not to be trusted. And yet that’s what we crave. Deep in our bones we want certainty, and so fall for the doctors of spin and purveyors of silver bullets. People who have confidence in their almost certainly wrong convictions.

“I don’t know” is an unacceptable response in politics. “I don’t know” is an unacceptable response in business too. But it shouldn’t be, because it’s the right answer most of the time. It’s the answer that is then followed up by “… but why don’t we try?” or “… but I have a hunch that… ” which gives direction but doesn’t promise the Earth

2 thoughts on ““I don’t know”

  1. The truly sad thing is that a recent survey found that most MPs would rather rely on their hunches than test out their theories in a randomised control trial.

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