With. once again, a reverent and grateful nod to the ever-inspiring Edward Tufte (@EdwardTufte) – The deepest and most probing question you can ask both yourself and others: “How do you know that?”
Asking this question, in my opinion, is the best possible way to slow yourself down and prevent yourself from jumping to conclusions without actually finding out the basis of an opinion. It can be tricky to ask this without sounding like you are challenging someone, but it so often the key to opening a subject up to proper scrutiny that it’s worth mastering!
For example, my team and I are in the middle of a very tricky programme of works at the moment, so many teams coming together for the first time to agree sensible approaches to achieve a lot in a tiny timeframe and it’s really quite something to see the amount of assuming that is going on. Not through arrogance, and definitely not through a lack of skill or intelligence, but seemingly through a need to answer a hard sum by making it an easy one and ignoring the tricky truths. This inevitably leads to problems later on in the project (sometimes too late) so by ensuring that everyone feels they have to properly examine everything they know (or think they know) you would be amazed how much more effort people make to be prepared and also to ask a stupid question.
Better to find out early on what you don’t know – and of course, what the other person has made up on the spot – before you come to rely on that knowledge.