The simplest way to learn more…

Maxim #21
When you don’t know, ask

Many intelligent and well-educated people mistakenly believe that asking questions makes them somehow look less intelligent. Ironically the tendency to avoid asking questions actually reduces your ability to learn. Wisdom eventually teaches you that you learn by observing and by asking questions. The first trick however seems to be that you need to learn that you don’t know as much as you think you do.
Carpedia is a case in point. When people join Carpedia, the idea of being a management consultant seems fairly impressive to them. They want to come across as intelligent and capable to clients so there is a strong inclination to not ask questions. When they become a Manager at Carpedia, there is an even stronger inclination to not ask questions. By the time they make it to Partner, they realize how much more they could have learned if only they had asked more questions, but now ironically they wait for others to ask them questions.
Somehow over time, with a mixture of confidence and maturity you grow to understand that you learn the most by asking questions. Here are two common day-to-day practical examples to consider:
  • Your manager explained the analysis she wants to see by the end of the day and you think you have a good idea how to do it. You probably don’t, better to ask for clarity or you’ll end up redoing it.
  • Your manager asks you to review the area’s backlog controls. You’re not quite sure what that means but figure it is just like it sounds. It probably isn’t, better to ask for clarity.

If you do not know something, ask for more information, help or guidance. There is no shame in admitting that you do not know something. Admitting a deficiency or a lack of understanding reflects a willingness to learn and grow.