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Epistemic humility

17 April, 2020

In a rapidly changing environment that features fake news, mistruths and a steady stream of politicians and scientists making daily announcements on our screens, what and who we trust is also evolving at pace. 

In times of uncertainty, people look to leaders, and wshared our thoughts on how business leaders should communicate internally in Management Today recently  essentially, be honest, be human and allow people to ask questions. The recent update to Edelman’s annual trust barometer shows that companies are trusted more than governments at the moment, though with things changing so fast, it’s hard to know how long that will last 

Another aspect of leadership which may be overlooked, but it perhaps more important than ever, is the importance of being transparent about everything we don’t know, as well as what we do. This was the focus of a recent article in Behavioral Scientist which focused on ‘epistemic humility’ – the recognition that our knowledge is always provisional and incomplete – and which argued that this is particularly in need right now, given our massive ignorance around this new threat.   

Experts that express their views in ways that acknowledge their limitations are displaying their epistemic humility, and therefore deserve our trustPoliticians of all flavours could do worse than take noteeven if admitting that their knowledge is imperfect doesn’t come naturally to them…  

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