#323 Why We Err

Necessary Fallibility + Ignorance + Ineptitude

In our last +1, we reflected on Nobel Prize-winning Herbert Simon’s wisdom that “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

I mentioned the fact that it’s easy to read that and say, “Yah! So true…” and then do nothing about it — continuing to shred our attention with an onslaught of meaningless incoming information. And, continuing to err.

I also briefly mentioned Atul Gawande’s discussion about why we err. Let’s reflect on that a little more.

First, quick context: Atul Gawande is a leading surgeon, public health researcher and best-selling author. In The Checklist Manifesto he walks us through the power of very simple checklists to Optimize our performance. We’ll talk about that more soon.

For now, let’s focus on the fact that Atul references a couple philosophers (Samuel Gorovitz and Alasdair MacIntyre) who tell us that there are three primary reasons why we err.

The first is “necessary fallibility.” Some things are just outside the realm of human capacity. Alas, we’re not all powerful and omniscient.

But, some things ARE within our capacity and yet we still fall short of our potential. There are two reasons for these types of failures: ignorance and ineptitude.

Ignorance means we don’t know what we need to know to perform at our best. Ineptitude means we KNOW but we don’t actually DO what we know.

Here’s the good news: If we simply applied more of what we ALREADY know, we’d be doing really, really, really well. (Right?)

Which is the primary reason why I’m constantly checking in and asking, “What’s one thing you know you could do to Optimize?”

Of course, we’ll continue to make distinctions about what’s optimal for us, but at this stage of our Optimizing, it’s pretty much all about moving from theory to practice — constantly working to get a little better at doing that which we know to be best for us.

So…

Today’s +1.

What’s one little thing you know you could be doing that you’re not quite doing yet?

Today a good day to move from ineptitude to mastery? 🙂

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