Today, I want to talk to you about the ladder of inference. Now, sometimes we jump to conclusions without understanding all the facts. I know I’m guilty of it, and so are the ones we lead. So, how many times have you, or your team, been privy to the same “facts,” privy to the same experiences, but all arrived at a different conclusion for why things are the way they are? This framework can really help us figure that out. This framework comes from a book called Getting It Done, but was originally developed by a behavioral theorist by the name of Argyris. That is where you should do a little further reading. Let’s take a look at what he said.
Getting all available data is step one to the process. What do we observe? What are the facts? Data is that direct information that is available to you.
Next, you want to move up to reasoning. How do you interpret that data? What story did the data say to you? How did it shape your experience? How did it shape the outlook of others? Here is where your story begins to deviate from everyone else around the table.
Finally, conclusions. Even though you and your team are all looking at the same data, your reasoning may lead you to draw different conclusions. And these conclusions are based on that data, but they are also based on your experience. But by using this ladder of inference, you begin to reexamine the process that led you to the different conclusions. You can then see what really happened: what was done, how it was done, what would you like to do differently. This exposure helps your team form an accurate conclusion that everyone can agree on and get on board with.
Now that you understand the ladder of inference, what are you going to do about it?
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