Home Concepts Decison Making & Problem Solving Expertise And Ignorance: We Are All Ignorant—Some of Us Know It and Some Of Us Don’t

Expertise And Ignorance: We Are All Ignorant—Some of Us Know It and Some Of Us Don’t

71 min read

Experts might not be able to make better predictions than an algorithm, but they might be able to offer an insightful analysis regarding what is happening with regard to a dynamically operating issue. The analysis becomes particularly rich if the experts come from different “camps” and offer diverse perspectives and insights. From a Relativistic stage of development, multiple perspectives are welcomed—not feared or dismissed as is the case with a Dualistic stance nor simply taken in (and often arbitrarily accepted or dismissed) as is the case with a Multiplistic stance.

From Understanding to Action

This Relativistic stance is all well and good. We can relish the understanding we have gained from the multiple perspectives being offered. However, we have to make a decision and have to take action on this decision. What treatment do we engage with this patient.? What should our policy be about prescribing specific drugs? What investments do we make? The behavioral economists are correct in offering advice about simply decision-making tools that can lead us to action. We might not be able to identify all of our biases or fully recognize the validity and usefulness inherent in any of the perspectives being offered—however, we still need to make a decision. William Perry identifies this fourth stage of cognitive development as Commitment in the Midst of Relativism. We need to do something—otherwise we are sitting on the sidelines with our acquired understanding of what is happening out on the field of action.

It is not enough, however, to revert to the checklists and simply analyses. We must somehow retain our appreciative of alternative perspectives, while also choosing the best one to engage with regard to this specific situation as it appears at this point in time and in this setting. Our decision might change the next time we encounter this issue. We might deploy a different perspective—and even listen to a different expert. None of this is easy. Perry admits that Commitment in Relativism is quite challenging. Even more generally,

Perry notes that the movement through each of the four cognitive stages is difficult. In each case, there is a loss of innocence. We are kicked out of one “Eden of Ignorance” and face the challenge of seeing the world in an increasingly nuanced manner. Perry suggests that a grieving process attends each shift in stages and that multiple shifts occur depending on the issue being addressed. We might be a Relativist or even make a strong Commitment in the Midst of Relativism when addressing an issue regarding public policy (such as the funding of Charter Schools)—but remain an adamant Dualist when it comes to the upbringing of our own children.

The challenge of making commitments in the midst of relativism opens the door for new tools of analysis (simple or complex). It also leaves open the possibility that complexity can be modeled in new ways (such as through the use of system dynamics and agent-based modeling) that preserves the complexity while leading to clear and ultimately simple solutions. While these more sophisticated tools of analysis might not be available to all of us – or we choose not to go the way of computer-based technologies—there are tools and processes that can readily be engaged as we seek to take the major step from ignorance to action. We are about to introduce one of these processes: MINDSPACE

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