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Learn how to slow the climb up the Ladder of Inference: Part 1

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From a young age, we’re taught to observe the world and take in and make sense of what we’re seeing in order to apply it to our own learning. As we get older, we’re given tools to hone these skills to help us think about what we’re seeing before we apply meaning and take action. Proofs in Geometry and statistical analysis of data were only the beginning.

Somewhere; however, this knowledge started to become mottled even though many of us continued to receive knowledge and education through work seminars, team projects, and management of other employees. Somewhere, we began to put our own assumptions into the mix and allowed ourselves to make decisions based on those assumptions, even if flawed.

Not only do we jump to conclusions, we end up making bad decisions with our work products or having bad judgment toward our co-workers and employees simply because we operated under our own assumptions about what we observed without taking the time to pause, gather, and analyze the total picture.

Probably one of the best visual explanation of this phenomenon was created by Chris Argyris in the form of the Ladder of Inference. The ladder explains how we take in information and add our own meanings, assumptions and conclusions based on our own observations and experiences. As human beings, we often move through this ladder very fast. The trick is to teach ourselves how to slow down and realize when we’re doing it.

Stay tuned for part two, which will review how to change the way we think about and add meaning to what we’re observing.

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