We always want to be clear. Sometimes we want to be precise.
When we’re discussing low-level, concrete issues like technical specifications, we need to be precise. Most of the time, though, we need to read between the lines. We need to understand what’s not being said explicitly, what’s not being well-articulated, what’s motivating someone to try and shape an outcome.
Illogical and irrational
The world is not a logical place and it’s not filled with rational people. This is the major flaw in economic theory, and it can be a hurdle in how technical people approach problem solving. We like to analyze a problem, understand the variables, and organize an orderly response.
This approach has a lot of value. It helps us to understand a situation, develop insights into core issues, and formulate a good plan. The danger is that this is an illusion. Reality is much messier and far less certain. People’s behavior is difficult to predict, more variables are in play than what we can easily see, and we can’t take everything that’s said literally.
Not everyone says what they mean or means what they say – even if they try. Communication is usually more complicated. That’s why it’s worth investing time and energy to establish a rapport. To build a common understanding. To establish terminology. To ensure that everyone is “on the same page.”
The things we discuss can mean different things to different people, and those meanings can even change over time. Paying careful, regular, and ongoing attention to this is important and worthwhile, even though it’s not efficient.
We deal with technical matters, but we’re not robots. Or logicians. Thanks to Spiked Math for the comic and the inspiration.