We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know
“You don’t know what you don’t know” is the sort of expression that daytime television hosts like to throw around but there’s something to it.
I came to work at Spectrum Resource Group about a year ago. After many years of working and spending time in the forest and bush of British Columbia, I knew a little about tree planting, saw work, invasive plants and maps. But I still had questions.
So I got my feet wet – literally and figuratively… I asked how the navigation software works while the mosquitos fed on the foreman who showed me the features I would need to find the next crew. I stood waist deep in snow while two crew leaders showed the group how to dig out a bogged down snowmobile. I reviewed tailgate meetings that described the mildly toxic reactions from hand pulling certain plants without gloves. Tree planters showed me microsites where seedlings could flourish. When I set up a projector screen for a presentation on emergency response in a mess tent because we were a six hour drive from the nearest cinema, a planter solved my sound problem with his Bluetooth speaker that filled the space and delivered the message to more than 70 field staff.
I have been fortunate that so many of my colleagues have been willing to answer those questions. I even asked why there isn’t a simple way to track the trees that had been planted.
While investigating incidents, it has not been uncommon to find that someone had a gap in their knowledge, had missed some key part of the training message, or not been aware why a circumstance may have been hazardous. Times like these present opportunities to learn patience, share information, and confirm understanding. Maybe we need to consider refresher training, a different method of delivery, more regular inspections, or mentoring.
I look at this challenge through the filter of safety but how we ask and answer questions related to the gaps in our knowledge is important in many other areas.
The world is evolving. Climates and weather are changing, younger generations have different expectations from their work environment, and digital technologies offer exciting advances. When we recognize that “we don’t know what we don’t know” we allow ourselves and others to grow.
One year later I am still asking questions. I still don’t know what I don’t know, but I do know that tracking trees is a very long topic.