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Being comfortable not knowing

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —July 25, 2006
Filed in Communication

Andrew says we should be more comfortable with not knowing and I have to admit I don’t entirely know what he means. πŸ™‚ This post over at Fast Company starts with a nice Einstein quote. I wish people would cite where these quotes were written, said, etc. Does anyone know where this quote comes from?

“The difference between what the most and the least learned people know is inexpressibly trivial in relation to that which is unknown.” — Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:

Comments

  1. annette says:

    I have real issues with the concept of “not knowing” which is sooo priveliged in psychoherapeutic training. For me, the issue is – can I manage the anxiety of not having the answer right now so it’s less about the not knowing and more about the management of anxiety in my humble opinion.

  2. Thanks Annette. I’m unaware of the issues in psychoherapeutic training. Would you mind elaborating on what you mean by “the concept of “not knowing” which is sooo priveliged in psychoherapeutic training.”

  3. Andrew Rixon says:

    I agree, there is real potential for anxiety in the area of “not knowing”. It seems that people have a natural tendency to want to answer questions, to be problem solvers and to show knowledge whereever they can.
    In terms of facilitation I have noticed the paradox of “being happy with not knowing yet having the desire to know” appears to be the mindset for some effective facilitation.
    It appears to be helpful not just in facilitation circles too. Who knows, it may even be a useful mindset for life in general. But now I think I’ve stepped right into fluffy bunny metaphysics. πŸ™‚
    Warm regards,
    Andrew

  4. annette says:

    Shawn – it stems from the idea that to be helpful isn’t helpful sometimes. Having the right answers, knowing what’s going on can sometimes be a defense against anxiety. But there’s also a view that therapists shouldn’t adopt any position of certainty which I think is dubious. I have a model of healthy functioning which of course I know and I am relating what is happening with a client against that etc. It’s also my view (and this may be particular to Ireland) that therapists are very absent from social discourse about political, social, psychological events. Doctors and psychiatrists appear on tv and in the newspapers speaking from an informed position, but therapists appear to carry some anxiety about adopting a position that’s “informed” once again feeding into the idea that “not knowing” is in some way more priveliged.

  5. ken says:

    I look forward to checking the Anecdote feed, not knowing what will be written about each day πŸ™‚ To know, would spoil the magic, the mystery, the wonder (to know might make a problem, where would we go for intriguing interrupts from a knowing routine into the moment of not knowing – hmm. too Rumsfeldian…)

  6. andrew campbell says:

    Knot noing πŸ˜‰ or Not knowing πŸ˜‰ or not noing πŸ˜‰ or KNOT KNOWING πŸ˜‰ and is the knowing a formal knowing or a tacit one, explicit or implicit ?…
    Most human problems are…KNOT problems…they are symptoms of a lack of creativity at many levels…and if you read Blogs all day long for a while, you see how there are about seven seminal subjects and ‘rough copies’ sub copies and sub sub copies of these concerns rolling around and around the Blogosphere, like chinese whispers made into chinese marbles.
    Blogging is by and large just the latest self (group) publicity publishing (vanity publishing) gig, in the main – even this one, nice folk though you are. The clever ones manage to hide it so courteously – so as not to appear at the wrong level of sophistication in ones presumed or hoped for ‘peer business’ and ‘peer consulting’ circles, which is what it is perhaps really aimed at.
    n’est pas?
    Warm wishes,
    Andrew
    Bateson once asked a really nice question – which can be asked two ways… “What is the connection between a crab and a primrose?” AND “Why do teachers never teach children about the patterns that connect?”
    That is, in essence, a nice, neat, clean, concise description of the whole of the Blogosphere, all commercial marketing, and KM as well as NKM OMHO πŸ˜‰

  7. andrew campbell says:

    Knot noing πŸ˜‰ or Not knowing πŸ˜‰ or not noing πŸ˜‰ or KNOT KNOWING πŸ˜‰ and is the knowing a formal knowing or a tacit one, explicit or implicit ?…
    Most human problems are…KNOT problems…they are symptoms of a lack of creativity at many levels…and if you read Blogs all day long for a while, you see how there are about seven seminal subjects and ‘rough copies’ sub copies and sub sub copies of these concerns rolling around and around the Blogosphere, like chinese whispers made into chinese marbles.
    Blogging is by and large just the latest self (group) publicity publishing (vanity publishing) gig, in the main – even this one, nice folk though you are. The clever ones manage to hide it so courteously – so as not to appear at the wrong level of sophistication in ones presumed or hoped for ‘peer business’ and ‘peer consulting’ circles, which is what it is perhaps really aimed at.
    n’est pas?
    Warm wishes,
    Andrew
    Bateson once asked a really nice question – which can be asked two ways… “What is the connection between a crab and a primrose?” AND “Why do teachers never teach children about the patterns that connect?”
    That is, in essence, a nice, neat, clean, concise description of the whole of the Blogosphere, all commercial marketing, and KM as well as NKM OMHO πŸ˜‰

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