How do we know what we know ?

At the same time as I arrived in Kilkenny a few days ago for a weekend of Economics geekery at Kilkenomics, I was messaging on Twitter with a brilliant friend of mine to get their ideas on future themes for my writing on this site. They messaged :

write about epistemology?
You don’t write about things you can evidence in a repeatable study
But what you write has value and conveys knowledge
How do you know what you know?
And how do you know that you know it?

I’ve never focussed on Epistemology, nor even studied Philosophy in any depth, but the timing of the idea really switched on my radar as I listened and spoke to the many experts at Kilkenomics, both about what they thought and shared, and also for myself. How do I know what I know ?

I’ll absolutely focus on that now. Once I’ve read and talked to experts, I’ll write on it and look to keep it simple enough for ME to understand !

For now, in listening to so many experts at Kilkenomics, one theme that came through strongly for me was how much focus is given on rationality in decision making. Rationality is all we need, right ?

ok, ok, I’m having a laugh at rationality here, simply that I felt that at this festival the bias was  little too much towards rationality in seeing how the world works and which direction it is moving in. How do I know that ? Umm..


Thank you Jon Stewart.

Rationality is clearly vital, as is critical thinking and scientific analysis in many ways.

My career leapt out of formal learning into business and remained there (albeit with a highly curious mind that voraciously seeks knowledge in many forms). I did spend the first 15 or so years of that leanly largely on rationality, logic, data, numbers, proof. As a Chartered Accountant by qualification, that was to be expected.

However, as my career progressed, I began to recognise that rationality is certainly insufficient both as a tool for making decisions and also to explain why decisions are made. In short, humans aren’t wholly rational ! I then gradually shifted focus towards human behaviour and what drives that in business and life, so trained and worked for many years as a coach.

In short, my experience has me “knowing” that there are different ways to “know”, to learn, to make decisions, to communicate, to lead. A major ongoing theme on this site is around leadership, and it is underpinned by such themes.

More to come, stay tuned !