Knowledge is not Opinion

fullopinionIf I’ve learned anything at work, it’s that work isn’t much a place for learning.

There’s plenty more in other places that go into whys and wherefores of this. Both me complaining and others explaining.

This isn’t about that. But specifically…

Whatever is learnt in work, is thought to be opinion

But there is one mighty fuck of a difference between the two. 

The difference is one is dependent on reality, the other merely on plausibility and  popularity.

I have learned from being in the work that targets always make services worse. This is not popular as we use targets throughout my organisation.

I have learned from being in the work that doing team building, raising staff morale or any other form of staff mind-melding doesn’t work. This is not popular as it is easy and staff and managers enjoy doing it.

I have learned from being in the work that all decisions about work have to be tested in the work in small experiments. This is not popular as organisations like SMART goals clearly stating what success looks like. As if we are Uri Gellar and can know.

If learning happens to not contradict current opinion, then great. But because knowledge gained from how the work works is a rare commodity, others aren’t that familiar with it and so are not clear on the difference between hard-fought-for knowledge gained from learning in the work, and opinion gained from deciding what feels right.

If you state “I have learnt” you will be saying this from within a mental model where learning is  something concrete that emerges from  a process of engaging with reality, testing and finding out. Others will hear this as “I have memorised this from a book“.

The hard thing in a command and control environment is that that any opinion is as good as any other, plausibility and popularity being the test of a good opinion. Any learning you’ve got from the work is likely to be both implausible and unpopular so therefore a bad opinion.

I find the most frustrating thing I have to do is arguing from learning in the arena of opinion. Finding knowledge by excavating painfully from reality, and then having it dismissed airily as opinion, can be desperately annoying.  There can be no other test of knowledge than it being tried out. If it HAS been tried out, then to me it has earned its stripes. Saying that is just “opinion” because others think differently is not logical.  All that means is that others think differently, it says something about others, not me.

If I learn anything in work, then it is unprofessional of me NOT to use that knowledge in work

The most important thing about learning is that it is not just mine. It sits in my head but if I have spent time in a workplace doing work paid for by somebody else, then what learn is also their knowledge.
Like an oil prospector, if I strike oil then what I find isn’t mine. I am doing it on behalf of others. So what I find is important, it isn’t just mine to ignore, and just keeping it in my head without using it to help the organisation is as good as ignoring it.

This means that it immediately enters the arena of opinion, with opinion making the rules. But if what has been learnt contradicts current opinion, then that’s trouble being brewed up right there. If it makes it through both reality and opinion boot-camp, that’s something valuable right there.

If I have learnt anything in work, it is that the best lessons were the hardest to learn because they were unpopular

Keep systems thinking, and have a lovely day!

This entry was posted in experiment, knowledge, learning, systems thinking and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Knowledge is not Opinion

  1. Maz Iqbal says:

    We must be ‘brothers’. Your speaks resonates with me and my experience. Just last night I wrote the following blogpost:

    My key point: ignorance and prejudice (bias based on one’s role/place in the organisation) masquerading as knowledge or what is so. And the complete blindness to seeing that ‘it is all pretty much made up’ – no testing out with reality.

    I wish you well. Keep writing, I enjoy reading it.

    All the best


  2. Charles Beauregard says:

    I was reading the WikiHow article – “How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci”. I was delighted to see the seven steps (Curiosità, Dimostrazione, Sensazione, Cryptic, Arte/scienza, Corporalità, and Connessione) effectively sum up systems thinking. I had no idea I was such a renaissance man.


  3. nosapience says:

    Great blog … Made me laugh out loud in the middle of a quiet room of opinionated donkeys.

    I like to use a scale to secretly score opinions, called Mogs. There is a big range, 5 Mogs is crap, whereas 10000 Mogs is quite good. Mogs stands for “Minutes on Google Spent” before coming up with the idide

    Keep up the good work, I’m just off to a group hug the donkeys call a “mindfulness session”!


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