Not Knowing Is Not So Bad

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Today a Vice President of my company asked me how to remove an incompatible VIB from an ESXi server because it was preventing an upgrade from launching.

My answer was “I do not know.”

Some people might be tempted to try and bluff their way through the situation. After all, no one wants an officer of the company to think that he or she may be incompetent.

This is the kind of pathetic “ego protection” logic that our society encourages far too much. No one can be ignorant on any matter. Especially when asked a question by the boss.

IT professionals confess ignorance. They confess ignorance early in the process, and they do it often.

Admitting a lack of knowledge is more than just a good first step when you encounter a new problem. Admitting a lack of knowledge is an essential step to solving a new problem.

I told the VP that I did not know. Then I got on Google and found him the answer. Meanwhile we pulled in another employee to help with another question.

In less than an hour all of our questions were answered, and the server was upgraded without a problem. Not just because I admitted my ignorance, but because the VP admitted his ignorance too. The solution was discovered much faster than if one of us had gone through the motions of bluffing.

Do not bluff when asked a question you do not know the answer to. Admit that you do not know and then get to work learning the answer. Worst case is that you do not discover the answer. But more than likely you will find the answer and at the same time demonstrate two great qualities: That you can teach yourself, and that you are honest.

This is why the benefits of admitting ignorance are far better than bluffing through an answer, because even if your bluff succeeds no one will ever know.

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