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Modern management theory, explained

Oh … now I get it, courtesy of Errol Morris, who made the Oscar winning documentary Fog Of War, among many other excellent films, who explains in this New York Times interview with David Dunning (part 1):

DAVID DUNNING: Well, my specialty is decision-making. How well do people make the decisions they have to make in life? And I became very interested in judgments about the self, simply because, well, people tend to say things, whether it be in everyday life or in the lab, that just couldn’t possibly be true. And I became fascinated with that. Not just that people said these positive things about themselves, but they really, really believed them. Which led to my observation: if you’re incompetent, you can’t know you’re incompetent.

ERROL MORRIS: Why not?

DAVID DUNNING: If you knew it, you’d say, “Wait a minute. The decision I just made does not make much sense. I had better go and get some independent advice.” But when you’re incompetent, the skills you need to produce a right answer are exactly the skills you need to recognize what a right answer is. In logical reasoning, in parenting, in management, problem solving, the skills you use to produce the right answer are exactly the same skills you use to evaluate the answer. And so we went on to see if this could possibly be true in many other areas. And to our astonishment, it was very, very true.

One Comment

  1. Yes, it’s a lovely spectrum:

    * being right
    * being wrong, but knowing it
    * being wrong, but not knowing it
    * being wrong, but not knowing it, even after it’s been proven and explained to you.
    * being wrong, knowing it, but just being too stubborn to admit it.

    The last two are hard to distinguish.

    My favourite part of that theory is how lack-of-knowledge breeds overconfidence, which in turn helps you project the confident “can-do” attitude that inspires trust. And earns promotions.

    Saturday, June 26, 2010 at 08:40 | Permalink