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We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know

Updated: Feb 22


For those of you that are aware of the knowledge quadrant, you will be familiar with the phrase ‘You don’t know, what you don’t know’. If you're not familiar with this, may I suggest some training?


In short, the theory goes that we have four areas of knowledge:


There is that which we know we know (such as our name).


There are things we know we don't know (such as I know I don’t know how to build a nuclear reactor).


There are things that we don’t know we know (those gems that pop up in the pub quiz that you’d forgotten you knew).


And then there are the things you don’t know you don’t know (in other words, information you didn’t know existed, so how could you possibly know you needed to know it?).


When it comes to training, it can be easy to see it as a burden – especially if it is just a repeat of the same hour-long session you have been doing for the last however long. It is also easy to think, “I’ve done my hours mandatory training, I must know it well enough now”. Unfortunately, the reality is that there is often a massive gap between what we learn in the classroom and what we have to implement in practice.


Mental Capacity is an excellent case in point. Simply because you might be able to reel off the 5 principles of the Act, does that mean you know how to set the threshold of understanding, identify the causative nexus or simply be able to implement the principles themselves? Training has to go beyond just being able to repeat information; it’s about being able to apply it in practice and understand why it did or didn’t work.


What experience tell us, is that in pressurised and busy environments, such as acute hospital or care home settings, you have to rely on the core information you have retained from training. and let’s face it, it’s a tall order to remember everything that was said, especially if that was half a day spent on an entire piece of legislation, for example.


There’s no time to do independent reading or reviewing of literature. So, if that core information is only superficial, so too will be the decisions you make. If the training you receive, at its core, is knowledgeable, applicable and well-grounded in practice, what you know is so much more valuable and what you don’t know, so much less concerning.


Realising how much you don’t know can be really intimidating; What if what we are doing is all wrong when it comes to assessing capacity for certain decisions? Where do we go from here now that this can of worms is open? This is all good in theory, but how can we possibly make the changes with this heavy workload?


Well, a good bit of training should be already answering those questions for you.


Many of us can often see additional training as a distraction or interruption from our day-to-day roles – certainly if we are in a team that is short staffed or under pressure. It can be easy to prioritise the immediate need over any longer-term benefit training may offer, especially if we think we already know it or have done this mandatory training course a ‘hundred times already’.


However, to take that view is to miss out on the bigger picture. Not only is there a real danger that we miss out on learning key information that will improve our practice and the outcomes for those under our charge (be it patient, client or customer) but we also miss out on a number of other key benefits that training provides. By the way, if you can’t name any additional benefits, may I suggest some training..?


All joking aside, it is well documented that as well as improving knowledge, additional training increases earning potential, promotion prospects, job satisfaction, ability to adapt to industry changes, improved motivation, improved quality and consistency and a reduction in risk of litigation.


We are all well aware of the current financial situation and that the next few years are going to be tough for everyone. As such, the tendency might be to prioritise more immediate concerns over training and continued personal development. Research tells us, however, that this is will only lead to greater detriment and worse outcomes for both ourselves and for those we are supposed to be looking after.


Don’t know if that is right or don’t believe the research? Make time for some training and find out for yourselves.

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