Know What You Don’t Know

July 18th, 2005 by Hans Bjordahl :: see related comic

If there’s one lesson I’ve seen repeated over and over again in the tech field, it’s this: Know what you don’t know.

Follow this simple rule and, at worst, you’ll have to detour a bit to get a clarification or some new information. Bluff your way through, however, and it’s a short, slippery slope to the worst case scenario, with each bluff compounding on the last. Hint: If you’re already leading a 30-person Java implementation, it’s way too late to go back to the boss and admit you picked the technology because you like coffee.

The smartest people I know are the quickest to point out — no matter who else is in the room — when a particular topic or tidbit of knowledge is beyond them. They ask, they clarify, and now they’re just a little bit smarter than when the meeting started. Half the time, they’re asking about something no one else in the room knew either — it’s just that the others were unwilling to speak up and admit it.

Bottom line: Knowledge moves faster than you do. Ask a lot of questions. Only the idiots know everything.

4 Responses to “Know What You Don’t Know”
Steven Chalmers wrote:

I couldn’t agree more. Ask when you don’t know. I think it also helps delineate the expertise. In the same way we want developers to realize they might not know everything about usability, we should’t act as though we know everything about development.

james wrote:

Amen! Too bad management types can be the worst about this sort of thing. Working with PhD types also sees this sort of thing come up a lot. Of course I can think of some times I needed to hear this advice before I got myself into a bad spot…I’m better now though, promise!

M. Douglas Wray wrote:

Neat summation of why American business is getting it’s flabby white butt kicked savagely in the world market - and will continue to do so.

Jeff Atwood wrote:

> Neat summation of why American business is getting it’s flabby white butt kicked savagely in the world market - and will continue to do so.

And we evidently can’t form grammatically correct sentences, either.

Leave a Reply

Bug Bash is a comic strip written and illustrated by Hans Bjordahl. Bug Bash is a comic strip about technology: managing technology, the business of technology. It's about project management and managing projects through the dull world of Rational Rose, use cases, and requirements. Functional requirements, user requirement, functional specifications, design specifications, call it what you want but it's still the bane of project managers. And when you're done with that, you can think about all the fun that comes with timelines, scheduling, estimates (PERT estimation anyone?) and resourcing until Gantt charts are coming out of your ears. Let's not forget the risk management in the software engineering life cycle. Maintaining the project is just as much fun, managing what was initially set out in requirements and trying to keep feature creep / scope creep in check with change management. If any of these words send nightmares to you, the project manager, then this site probably rings true with you. (Who Links Here?)