Jeff Hunter: Embracing Confusion [The Knowledge Project Ep. #74]

Jeff Hunter is obsessed with what drives and unleashes human potential. In this episode, he teaches us how to rewrite the damaging narratives holding us back, how to give and receive helpful feedback, how to improve critical thinking skills, and so much more.

Today on The Knowledge Project, I welcome the CEO and Founder of Talentism, Jeff Hunter.

Jeff is the creator of Talent Architecture, a science and data-driven approach to getting the best out of people both inside and out of the workplace, and is the former head of recruiting for Bridgewater Associates.

In this discussion, Jeff explains the Bad, Stupid, Lazy narrative (“BSL”) that clouds our judgment and invites conflict into our lives, the three-step method Jeff uses to give (and receive) feedback in a way that moves your goals forward, how to update your mental models in real-time to get a more accurate picture of reality, and the simple thing most people are not doing that can rapidly improve critical thinking skills.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

We aren’t rational actors. We aren’t making rational decisions. We aren’t picking goals for ourselves based on the available information, and sort of weighing that information impartially. That’s just not reality, but it’s very deeply embedded in how we think about ourselves and how we think about others.

We walk around and we have these sort of unchallenged beliefs about ourselves. A, that we’re perceiving reality accurately; B, that our perception is not only accurate but valid; C, that if it’s obvious to us, it must be obvious to others; and all it takes is a moment of reflection to realize none of that’s true, and that none of that’s really supported by science or even just critical thinking.

Managing is much harder than hiring, and it should be, because it’s a day in and day out thing of committing to somebody else’s greatness and their potential. It’s not a transaction. It’s an ongoing relationship.

Most of us are on autopilot all day long. We’re just going from thing to thing to thing. Our intuitions, our habits can really help us achieve whatever we want during the day. So, it’s like when you climb in the car in the morning, and you drive to work, and you get to work and you realize, “Oh my gosh, I wasn’t present for any of that! I remember getting in the car and I remember arriving at work, but everything in between was sort of a blur”… that’s because your mind is very effective at taking care of complex tasks without you paying attention.

The best thing that can happen, if you care about learning and unleashing potential, is you want to get confused. Confusion is indicative of the fact that you are having an experience that’s different than what you expected, and that confusion is necessary to start to make sense of the world, yourself, and the connection between the two.

It’s a beautiful moment when you see that, when you experience those negative physical reactions because it’s telling you about the insufficiency of your model. It’s not telling you how bad things are going, or how bad other people are; it’s telling you about the insufficiency of your model, of your applied beliefs.

People fail and people struggle and all those things, but so much of what we do when we’re confused is tell ourselves stories to make ourselves feel better. And that’s one of the worst things we can do, but we all do it.

I think it’s probably not wise to deal in generalities about any type of group based on any characteristics, but instead, deal with individuals and try to figure out how to create a system that identifies people who are going to do well in that system and unleashes their potential.

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