There’s one thing we all believe in. We all believe in the story we tell ourselves. This story is a composite of our past experiences, what we’ve accepted as truth, stories from others, our continuously unfolding experience, and the reality of our environment we interact with. The problem is this story does not represent the whole truth. This story is called our mental model. Weaving together multiple perspectives gets us closer to the truth but not in it’s entirety. We fill in the gaps in our perception with fragments from our own past experiences and imagination both of which are necessarily incomplete. Our brains, stories, and mental models are just part of being human and it’s important to recognize what we ingest.
Quality Engineers in the aerospace industry are part of the investigation team when problems arise, products fail and processes don’t yield intended results. The purpose of the investigation is to uncover the root cause of why things did not meet requirements. There are usually more than one root cause. Each root cause is identified and assessed for the likelihood of causing the issue. Sometimes you find the smoking gun but often just a lot of smoke and no gun. During the investigation it’s important to bring together many perspectives to arrive at the closest approximation of the truth of what happened. When investigating within a team it’s easy to get caught up in a particular theory or idea about what happened. For the small problems this may be enough to close the issue. It may not be value add to pursue the truth further. For the big problems like a failure of product to meet requirements during acceptance testing or a major mishap, the team has to be reminded of what they know, need to know, opinions and what we they think they know. Otherwise, the team drinks it’s own kool-aid. It holds a belief of what happened without critical examination.
Applying this to ourselves and our biz, we to need reminded of the difference between what we know, need to know, opinions and think we know. Otherwise we are simply drinking our own kool-aid. That’s why it’s critical to have friends that are not afraid of telling you the truth even if it goes against our perspective. If we “know” we are right or wrong about something, it’s important to verify by getting some external source to confirm or deny that righteousness or inner dishonesty. Likewise we need to be aware of the kool-aid being passed to us when others are swaying us to their point of view. In a world where it’s easy to drown in information, it’s critical we know the difference between what we know, need to know, opinion and what we think we know. Adopting a trust and verify approach to information and our experience is one way we can ensure our biz stays truthful to itself and maintains a high degree of integrity. So ask yourself, how much and whose kool-aid are you drinking?