"Ignorance More Frequently Begets Confidence Than Does Knowledge"

No, this isn't a "when life gives you lemons" moment.

No, this isn't a "when life gives you lemons" moment.

~Charles Darwin

Dunning and Kruger proposed that, for a given skill, incompetent people will:

  1. Tend to overestimate their own level of skill
  2. Fail to recognize genuine skill in others
  3. Fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy
  4. Do recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, if they are exposed to training for that skill

Therein lies the problem. We have leaders – managers, directors, Veeps, C-level folks, owners – in our agencies and marketing departments who have experience, serious credentials and perhaps an impressive education behind them who know more than we do. But ignorant on how anything gets done in the office - and incompetent because they may have never had to do what you do.

So, can they do your job?

Probably not.

Why? Because a) they don’t know what your job is, b) they actually don’t know how to do your job, and c) they didn’t care until today (á la Ken Lay)…

Then there’s some huge, expensive mistake; profits have gone down the tubes; or there’s a whole lotta bitching going on. No matter how much you rearrange the office (Titanic anyone?) to create serendipity for that kumbaya moment, no one is happy and things just aren’t working.

Then management starts messing with the flow. [Tend to overestimate their own level of skill]

They confidently ride in on their trusty steed and sabre drawn – ready to apply rash decisions and big old Band-Aids to the mistakes; cuts in perks/benefits/staff to ameliorate mounting Red Ink; and my personal favorite, new process, tools – or worse – an organizational behavior consultant to assuage the bloodshed.

And everything turns to crap.


What did management fail to do?

Take the pulse of the staff. Ask the simple, obvious questions: what’s working and not working? [Fail to recognize genuine skill in others]

You don’t set sail without a map, compass and these days, GPS. And certainly not without a skilled crew.

So why on this Earth would management make all these decisions without a simple query and just a little bit of background? Because they are smarter than everyone else. They’ve read all the articles about the latest management trends – from Kaizen to Holacracy – and they are knowledgeable because, since it's in the pages of Forbes or Wired:  It. Will. Fix. Everything. [Fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy]

Yes, knowledge is power. No, I’m not saying management is stupid – or incompetent. (Some individuals are though, and they should go, post-haste.)

But management very often is ignorant of what it takes to get that stuff that you do – done. And they’re very likely incompetent when it comes to something like developing a serious spreadsheet – with all those fancy formulas, Photoshop miracles on their corporate mug shot, or writing code for a new app. They have you to do that.

People, you are stuck with your managers, so offer-up some help.

When things aren’t going well, errors made, general animosity in the office – I’ll bet you recognize it well before management acknowledges it.

You have skin in this game. If management doesn’t know what’s going on and you see problems, make them aware. And more than that, come up with a couple ideas for solutions. At least you are making an effort to fix the problems. Management just might thank you. [Do recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, if they are exposed to training for that skill]

If management chooses to blissfully go on their way and ditch your ideas, you have a couple options: either sit back and watch the implosion or get your resume tuned-up and out to prospective employers.

Now excuse me while I put on my invisibility cloak of lemon juice.