Assume Confusion Until Proven Otherwise

TJ Waldorf
Reading Time: 2 minutes

I apologize in advance for potentially giving credit in the wrong place on this, but here’s an interesting tip I picked up from the book titled ‘Judgement on the Front Line’, by Chris DeRose and Noel M. Tichy. It goes like this…

“Until otherwise proven wrong, assume confusion.”

Now, I realize that without context that six-word statement may seem a bit obscure, but it is in fact a powerful message. Consider this- How many times have you sat in a meeting where a bunch of information is delivered, and everyone walks out not remembering 98% of what was said? And how many of that 98% shook their head agreeing their understood everything before they walked out? I’ve been to those meetings. Hell, I’ve been the naieve one presenting at those meetings.

In my experience, we tend to assume the opposite. I know I have. We assume that everyone is giving us laser-like focus and absorbing every last drop of information we’re spewing at them. [This is where I would insert the giant red buzzer that makes that annoying sound when you’re wrong on a game show [eerrrrrrrrr!!].]

“Until otherwise proven wrong, assume confusion”, means, we need to get out and validate that people truly understand what we’ve asked them to do, with perfect clarity and uniformity. Ask follow-up questions. Offer knowledge assessments. Watch people in action to see how they are executing on the information. Test it!

 TAKE ACTION: This advice is aimed at managers, but I’m sure it can apply in many other areas. The next time you deliver information to your team, expecting everyone to ‘just get it’, spend some time afterwards validating that they actually ‘got it’. To make it interesting, calculate the ‘information retention’ rate by dividing the number of people who truly understood what you were saying, by the number of people in attendance of your meeting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *