Climb down the ladder to unravel misunderstandings

 Climb down the ladder to unravel misunderstandings

At a meeting to finalise arrangements for a forthcoming exhibition, the team started to run through the timetable.

‘To make the exhibition start time, 10.30, it means we need staff there half an hour earlier…’

‘10.30? I thought we had changed the start from 10.00 to 9.30. So what did we agree?
What do you do once you’ve unearthed a misunderstanding? You need to take people back through their reasoning and, if necessary, to the information to find out where the misunderstanding arose.

[Figure 2.3] The ladder of inference
[Designer, please add team climbing down a rung from conclusions]

In our example, two members had come to different conclusions about the change in time. The team needs to climb down the ladder:
one rung to see if the misunderstanding arose during reasoning about the change in time
For example, they might discover that when they discussed moving the start time, someone had suggested moving it half an hour back while someone else was thinking about moving it on half an hour.
if necessary, another rung to see if the misunderstanding arose from unclear data about the usual start time
For example, they might discover that everyone had understood the reasoning – to moving the start time forward half an hour. The misunderstanding arose because the organiser had actually referred to the ‘usual start time’, which some people thought was 9.30 while others thought it was 10.00.

This simplified version of the ladder of inference is from Fisher and Sharp (1998)

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