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Confucius, the Chinese philosopher (551-479 BC), is widely quoted for his succinct counsel. On the occasion of the Chinese New Year which began yesterday, and coincides with the post-appraisal period for most companies, let’s take heed of his words to shape the coming year at work.

Confucius’ advice, “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance,” is particularly relevant in this context. It suggests that we ought to be aware of how much we know. And, more importantly, how much we don’t know, which is to say that we ought to be aware of the limitations of our knowledge.

In terms of what Confucius advises, the acquisition of knowledge is to widen one’s own perspective in order to see a broader truth. As they say, the more you know, the more you realise how much you don’t know. In the words of Albert Einstein, “As the circle of light increases, so does its circumference of darkness.”

To have knowledge enables one to be acutely aware of oneself and the world around us, to the extent of recognising how far you can go (for instance) to the edge of a cliff without being ignorant to the possibility of falling over.

Another quote by Confucius that sheds more light to the one above is, “He that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools.”
Steven Covey calls it ‘Sharpening the Saw’, the habit of self-renewal. It suggests examining the extent of your knowledge; a blunt saw is far less efficient. It calls for planning and preparation and constantly revisiting what you know in order to add to it, because the minute we decide that we are an expert in any field, we stop being innovative and seeking new ways of doing things.

Questioning what we know and what we don’t know is the principle and the process that empowers us to move in an upward spiral of growth, change and continuous improvement.

– Fauzia Kerai Khan
The writer is Chief Consultant, i&b Consulting,
Training, eLearning. fauzia@iandbconsulting.com