Why the answer seems obvious. When we don’t understand something or can’t figure out how to use or work with something. This occurs with some regularity.
I apologize, but I tricked you by the way I asked the question. It is not meant to be interpreted as how do we know that we don’t know. The focus is on situations where we feel we do know.
These situations are dangerous. Why? Because we rarely test to figure out what we do know. We assume, many times, that we know and proceed. Mistakenly, because we think we know, we don’t stop to see if our knowledge is either innacurate or incredibly narrow, keeping us from making better decisions or being more effective.
(It is a big reason as to why we get caught in a trial and error loop, at times during our lives, when things aren’t working out the way we thought.)
Part of the difficulty is that we don’t like to show that we know less than we do. Because of this, we don’t ask enough questions for fear that we will be looked at as not being smart.
The other difficulty is when we confuse “we know” with opinions or faulty logic. Things that are hard to substantiate and are biased based on the experiences or situations you have seen. Hearing our confident voice share an opinion does not make it necessarily accurate or true. (We easily mistake another person’s opinion as if it was knowledge.)
Determining what we know takes a bit of work but is not as hard as you think. Questions, no matter how dumb you think they are, need to be voiced. Checking with others, who are not related to the issue that you directly are working on, but have a wider collection of life’s experiences, is a great way to further validate what you know and what you don’t know.
Trying to figure out what you don’t know is an even better way, but more challenging. For example, you might do some internet research on the topic you need to learn more about by watching you tube videos or reading articles around the subject matter of interest. When this is done, you will quickly begin to see gaps in your knowledge that you never knew existed.
In organizations, group discussions around a topic are a great way to determine what you know. Why? Because others will share their different knowledge and experiences creating something new that you previously did not understand. Making you realize that you didn’t know as much as you thought you did.
Don’t get discouraged Keep working. Keep living. And keep testing what you think you know. Why? Because I have found that it is a lifelong process that helps you constantly evolve.