Three things happened to me this week:
- I went to a debate on a new book about Br*xit; Tr*mp and the Media. Apart from being frustrated by an ex-D*ily M*il journalist on the panel (I’m not even inclined to like anyone who reads that cr@p let alone writes for the thing) it was an interesting look at how the media presents the world we’re living in. I came away feeling something which I’ll cover below.
- I read this AMAZING commentating blog from a good friend Steve Toft aka Rick. He’s an amazing writer. Such good prose, facts, charts, conclusions — he’s more a journalist than most of the shower I see who write for a living. This caused a feeling in me too. Again, covered below.
- The dead clever Tim Harford’s piece: What we get wrong about technology for the Financial Times.
So why call this blog Knowing?
All 3 things reminded of just how little I know. And of how acutely aware of that I am. And of how much respect I have for people who are truly “knowers”.
Tim Harford is a knower. Steve Toft is a knower. Even the M*il hack is a knower.
I’m a wannabe knower.
At times I feel ill prepared for the knowing I will need for the future. I have those moments: When I realise I have so much to learn I often feel the sense of lacking. It’s not an easy state of me to be in, but it’s one I am more than familiar with since arriving into the workplace.
I’ve always wanted to know more; to be as knowledgeable as that person who just trained me in a simple set of admin tasks. As the person who effortlessly handled that query on the telephone. As the colleague who just sensitively and with clarity, helped that customer at the public counter.
I learned to like what that feeling did for me. I was activated by a sense of acquiring. Of knowledge. Of confidence. Of worth.
I’ll admit that there are times when I envy those who know so much more than I do. I wish I knew what they knew.
So, at the debate evening I mentioned at point 1. Several times I felt a little under-knowing. How had I not noticed some of the things being discussed? Hadn’t realised the state of play someone so forcefully applied to words. I wasn’t aware of all the people, positions and back-stories being shared. I felt unable to form opinions let alone contribute simply because I felt a bit frozen by my sense of under-knowing.
Until the end of the debate. When the topic of social technologies; of shifting moods in the way people are politically inclined and of the voice of middle-aged and younger people came into the discussion. I became more animated and felt I belonged there because these were things I felt a sense of knowing about. I had feelings and emotions I knew and felt confident in.
It was then I realised I’d never have known enough about the other stuff. I was way out of my normal sphere of operating.
This wasn’t a debate on the workplace; on the role of HR; on people’s learning at work. On Northern Soul or Northampton Town FC. Things I know about and have experience of and a passion for.
Did I learn something from the debate?
Yes I did — there’s something I sincerely believe in and know something about. A shift in the existing way we live, work and govern. A shift that, when in the midst of it, you’re not really sure it’s actually a shift so appears easy to deny it even is a shift. I saw a lot of people talking less deeply about the latter part of the debate because they weren’t in their state of knowing.
And then the Rick blog. About the demise of the shrinking state theory. Fascinating take on a political schema that’s been around me since I was a young boy in the Thatcher era.
Some of this I knew and recalled; other elements were such new insight I was left wondering how I hadn’t come across this information before.
Useful information and makes sense in framing the current coalition government and its policy plus history; things to watch out for and a great assessment of public sentiment past and present.
I felt less disturbed by my state of not-knowing in reading this; and more gratitude that I have Rick in my network and known to me. So much so, that if he asked for a minor financial contribution to continue to receive his posts, I’d 100% do that. In knowing through someone like him, there’s value and usefulness. No frozen state; or frustration or forgettable prose here.
Then the Tim Harford piece. In something like this, I don’t expect to ever get anywhere near this man’s intellect, knowing and articulation. A bit of a genius this man.
And so onto the piece in the FT.
I devoured this post with glee. It talked to everything I’m interested in but shed SUCH an interesting light on things. That we’re fearing AI and robots in the workplace when in reality, we’re more likely to see something else creep in to reshape the workplace.
The Jennifer unit was a vague recollection of something I’d read about and it turns out, is brilliantly connected by Harford to toilet paper; barbed wire and solar panels.
So I found a different state of not knowing here. Excitement and an instant wish to tell the story to others and not at all disturbed or lacking in my knowing. Far from it.
Three states of under-knowing I found myself in
I then did my usual and stumbled across several blog posts and features from a range of sources. Many’s the time I’ve found such posts useful and aggravating in equal measure, but I like to read not JUST what I believe in to keep myself from being too narrow or shallow of view and opinion.
Anyway, in these posts I came across a different knowing being demonstrated. And it reminded me of some of the views at the media event I mentioned at point 1.
Being SO assured of a view that not only is there an arrogant postulation being demonstrated, but also a smug and conceited tone or prose which denotes how right they are.
In the cases, I now describe as over-knowing I’ve seen this past week, there are some patterns
- You should really know better-ness. A disassembling of others’ views, opinions or facts, where little is really shared of an alternative except that other people are wrong/daft/naive.
- It’s really so simple-ness. Something totally obvious as an alternative is dressed up as “common sense thinking”. When it’s possible that the bleeding obvious thing is being overplayed as cleverer than it really is. A poor attempt at simplification and a potential reverse psychology trick to justify their reason for “putting it out there” in the first place.
- I’m so right on-ness. Following an against-the-tide mentality around something is what I mean by this. How some over-knowers revel in this “Oh you poor practitioner. Of course I can see it’s all bollocks and a fad, aren’t I clever for that…let me share my extensive views on this and offer some overly flamboyant verbose brain-farting to prove to you why…”
I’ve been guilty of jumping on fads and bandwagons and getting caught in hype. I’m a gut-feeler which means that will happen to me. I choose it because it chooses me type of thing. I am guilty as charged. I’m also aware enough to realise and unplug from that matrix before it damages what I really care about and believe in.
But I don’t plan on ever being an over-knower. A poseur stewing in my own sense of righteousness.
So what’s the difference and what’s the point?
Not knowing is of course, a reality. It may give you a reaction and I’ve had 3 this week.
Over-knowing is potentially a dangerous place to be. A place of over-confidence; of delusions of grandeur; of a mild form of narcissism.
Being more knowing, is perhaps our noble pursuit; where our contemplation, wisdom and inspiration sit elegantly together alongside our other good friends; humility and compassion.
Don’t let over-knowers get in the way of your noble pursuit.