THE BLOG
08/19/2015 11:03 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Ladder of Inference (4.5)

Fred Kofman

I just had an e-argument with a colleague. Two days ago he asked me to send him some information "as soon as I could." I've been traveling with poor Internet connection, so I was planning to send him the data next week. Today he wrote me an angry message demanding the information "now". I wrote him back dryly arguing that "now" was "sooner than I could." I think he's pushy. I'm sure he thinks I'm unresponsive. I'll try to avoid him next week when we're both at the office.

According to Harvard Business School professor Chris Argyris, my colleague and I are not alone. Most of us:

- Experience facts selectively based on our beliefs.
- Interpret what they mean based on our unconscious assumptions.
- Draw conclusions based on the interpreted facts.
- Adopt beliefs based on these conclusions.
- Take actions based on what we believe.

This creates a vicious circle. Our beliefs condition how we select data from reality, and can lead us to ignore "inconvenient" facts altogether.

Soon we are using self-sealing reasoning, closing ourselves up to any challenge and adopting the arrogant attitude of the knower.

2015-08-17-1439824418-3874840-4.3TheLadderofInferenceSupplemental.jpg

In the following video you'll see the problems of climbing the ladder unconsciously.

Readers: Recall a difficult conversation you've had; consider how you and your counterpart were going up different ladders of inference.

Fred Kofman, Ph.D. in Economics, is Vice President at Linkedin. This post is part 2.1. of Linkedin's Conscious Business Program. You can find the introduction and structure of this program here. To stay connected and get updates join our LinkedIn Group: Conscious Business Friends

You can Follow Fred Kofman on LinkedIn here