Tuesday 18 August 2015

Thought Picnic: I don't know it all

Know why you do
In my line of work, I have variously found myself at loggerheads with others when it comes to problem resolution.
In context, it is important for me to understand why scenarios and circumstances present themselves before seeking a range of paths towards solutions that might resolve or eliminate the problem entirely.
A background in logic
There are many people who come from many walks of life and careers into the Information Technology profession taking up roles from design and architecture, through project and change management to support and much else.
It goes without saying that whilst many again are good at what they do when things are working like clockwork, the gaps in their fundamental knowledge of things begin to show when problems or emergencies arise.
There is a great user and support community out there from where one can get answers to a range of issues and problems. Yet, being able to craft a question properly or explain the scenario properly lends itself to other being able to visualise that setting and hopefully present ideas, opinions or clear solutions with steps to implement them to resolution state.
What an engineering mind gives you
My engineering background requires that there must be a purpose for any activity undertaken towards obtaining a solution. For me, it has to be logical, sensible, goal-oriented and capable of advancing knowledge and experience that any other similar scenario can literally use those steps as a template.
I do not work too well with trial-and-error, where purpose and goal are lacking that brawn rather than brain is used to hopefully get an unexpected outcome that then turns out to be the solution.
Because there is no particular method to trial-and-error problem resolution, stumbling upon a solution might well be fine, but you are left with whether you can backtrack and formularise those trial-and-error steps into a clear guide with full understanding of the problem, why the problem arose and what can be done to resolve it.
Reading the runes
I regularly peer through error logs trying to ‘divine’ from the logs what set of circumstances have presented the error observed from after. In doing that, I have to make more deductions over assumptions to begin to make headway.
In many cases, what the logs tell me gives me a sense of certainty about where things have gone wrong and possible insights as to how to right the situation. It is at this stage that I might become unpersuadable of alternative thinking if the logic and the reasoning is neither clear nor convincing.
In exasperation, I have sometimes walked away from a situation, though usually after I have shared my views and wait for the doubters to come to the conclusion that I might have been talking sense all along.
I don’t know it all
Yet, I have to be careful that this assuredness does not descend into intellection arrogance blinding me from other perspectives and perceptions. It is important to have a good idea of what knowledge you have, what knowledge you do not have and most pertinently be quick to retrace your steps where the absence of knowledge has precipitated into negligence or ineptitude.
Ignorance is fine if it means the quest for knowledge remains an ongoing pursuit with the view of mastering the rules established and then breaking new ground with new thinking and new perspectives.
Make allowances to learn anew
The constant quest for knowledge also limits the occurrences of negligence borne of not acquiring and using knowledge that is already available and the possible crime of ineptitude where wilfulness or hubris has made one almost too sure of a situation when it really is not the case.
Curiosity and a sense of precociousness are attributes one must always possess along with a questioning and challenging disposition. We can trust many things, but they should really only be trusted that much if they have also been verified as trustworthy – paraphrasing Ronald Reagan aphorism of “Trust, but verify.”
The inspiration for this blog came from Dr Atul Gawande’s first Reith Lecture in 2014 on The Future of Medicine, titled, Why Do Doctors Fail? [PDF Transcript]. In this lecture, he referenced an article Toward a Theory of Medical Fallibility [Subscription PDF], Samuel Gorovitz & Alasdair MacIntyre (1976) Published in The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, 1976, Vol 1, No 1.

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