BIMBeing: The Journey #16
#16 – The susceptibility scale…
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Susceptibility; noun. The state or fact of being likely or liable to be influenced or harmed by a particular thing. Synonyms: vulnerability, sensitivity, openness, defencelessness, receptiveness… (Oxford Dictionary, 2019).
When you’re starting out in industry, fresh faced and open minded, you’re incredibly sensitive to new information. The upside to this is that you’re not only eager to learn but your sponge-like mind is able to learn very quickly, retaining substantial quantities of information in a short space of time (providing you apply yourself). The downside of this is naivety; you don’t really know whose ‘knowledge’ you should trust or what information you should be retaining. It’s difficult, but we all had to start in the same place.
The first few years are often quite a wild journey, it’s in the later years of your career when things tend to ‘level out’ and normalise. Part of this early journey is what I call the ‘susceptibility scale’; it’s an evolutionary path that we all have to walk.
Phase 1 – Believe everything
The very start of your career, full open-mindedness and 100% susceptibility (including naivety and vulnerability). You’ll tend to believe pretty much anything you are told in relation to the job, especially if that comes from a colleague that’s even marginally more senior than yourself, as you’ve not yet built up a knowledge base that allows you to challenge new information. If your manager was to tell you that BIM stood for Building In Mangos, there’s a chance you’d accept it. You’ll absorb a lot of knowledge during this phase although around 50% could be useless at best, or dangerously incorrect at worst.
Phase 2 – Believe nothing
Phase 2 starts once your fingers have been burnt by the incorrect knowledge you’ve accepted during Phase 1; susceptibility level is now near 0%. After Building In Mangos and shopping for stripy paint you’ve come to realise that people aren’t always telling the truth (whether they themselves realise it or not), and now you don’t trust anyone. You may even come to realise that, all jokes aside, many are imparting Assumed Knowledge that is leading you down the wrong path (see Post #1). Believing nothing is a difficult phase that can last for quite some time; it’s not a good place to be as you’ve gone from learning a lot in phase 1 (some good, some useless) to learning pretty much nothing. Graduating to Phase 3 is crucial.
Phase 3 – Proceeding with caution
After realising in Phase 2 that you’re no longer progressing and that ignoring everyone was just a knee-jerk reaction to Phase 1, it’s time to start listening to people again. This time you’re a far wiser individual than you were at the start; you’re cautious about who to trust and what to challenge and this is quite a positive situation. You’ll continue to learn from people in this phase but will now be more accurate in accepting true knowledge, checking the ‘facts’ and setting aside the rubbish. Proceeding with caution is not the fastest way to progress, but it is the safest. Some may never leave Phase 3, and that’s okay.
Phase 4 – Expert b*llshit filter
Phase 4, graduation from the susceptibility scale. Not everyone will make it to this level, graduation is far from guaranteed. At this stage you’ve been in industry for an extensive period of time, you’re experienced, you’ve got a wealth of real knowledge and you’ve heard so much BS that you can spot it from a mile away. You are now an expert in autonomously sorting fact from fiction, absorbing new knowledge and debunking myths almost subconsciously. Careful though, this end of the scale has cliff-steep edges which, if fallen down, may lead to symptoms of severe arrogance. The top of the scale is delicate – be smart, not cocky.
Joking aside, the above is a very real journey from naivety to wisdom. Some may move between phases in a matter of weeks and others may be stuck on the wrong path for large parts of their career which will inevitably impact their progression. Being able to sort the useful information from the noise and assumption is key to becoming genuinely knowledgeable. Here are a few obvious but valuable pointers to help smooth the journey:
Logic and common sense
Use your head! If something sounds ridiculous, like mangos being used for buildings, then it probably is. Just because you’re new and want to appear eager to learn does not mean that you should ignore your basic instincts and common sense. As you should do in everyday life, think things through and don’t take everything at face value.
Always ask questions, whether that be quietly questioning the information you’ve received in your own mind or asking those around you. It’s perfectly okay to question somebody that’s sharing information; the only time this will be a problem is if you’re catching out those imparting uncertain knowledge (could be assumed, see Post #1 again). Questioning and discussing thoughts and facts, if they’re correct, will also give you a far better understanding than if you’re just sat there being talked at. It’s good to have an input, conversations should be 2-way.
Research and verify
Information from a single source can never be as reliable as that verified by multiple sources. Whether that be more than one person confirming something or researching publications, standards and other documents to support and expand on knowledge that has been shared with you. Also consider the validity of any source, whether that be a person or publication, is the information you’re receiving reliable? If you’ve read it from a British Standard then it would be considered pretty reliable, if it’s from an unnamed person on an open forum you may want to double-check the content. Real knowledge is ensuring that what you ‘think’ you know is factually correct; research and verification is the way to achieve that.
Test it yourself
There’s nothing stopping you from testing ideas, theories and processes for yourself (within the realms of safety, of course). Found a supposedly good software trick online? That’s great, but give it a go first before you tell others that’s how it’s done – you’ll look ridiculous if something you’ve suggested is completely unreliable. I mention safety here just in case you’re still in Phase 1 of the scale and think everything is a great idea; you wouldn’t crash your own car into a wall because NCAP says you’ll survive – some things don’t need testing.
Assumption is the enemy (plug Post #1 for the last time); never, ever assume. If you don’t know something, find out, don’t just make it up. Assumptions are a risk not worth taking, it’s always better to know.
Do you know where you are on the scale? Do you know where you want to be? Think about how you can reduce your susceptibility to poor information in order to only retain the good stuff. Knowledge really is power; good knowledge will take you to good places and bad knowledge, well, you get the point.
Comments and emails below, I’m sure some of you have some great experiences, examples and advice for this one.