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  • Yasmine

An Orange in a field

Two thoughts about communication :

‘’In a healthy environment redundancy ought be experienced as a safety mechanism rather than judging claws around one’s intellect.”

True or false?

Well, it depends, it’s complicated.

Pilots, surgeons, most professions that have a primary goal to fly 376 passengers from point A to B or to open and close back a patient never mix up the need for redundancy with lack of trust in the partners. The stakes are so high, human life high, that maximising safety, checking and double checking are none negotiable.

In academia and in most corporate jobs the risks that are rarely as high as a human life. Though I am certain that an erratum to a paper for some might feel like death herself.

The absence of fatal mistakes (beyond the dramatic response of compilation errors), makes often redundancy to be perceived more as a bonus than a necessary step to be taken in a modus operandi. What cripples instead are hurt egos, when a check or double checked is required.

“Why are they asking? Do they not trust my competence as an <insert your favorite title>?”

Is there anything that can be done to ensure a healthy environment where redundancy is not perceived as an attack without treating every topic as a matter of life and death? Or is this just human nature at play?

One of the first lessons that I have learned in my current job is to never make assumptions about what people think and what they have registered. In general I have a fairly good idea of a given situation, but I systematically almost force myself to not make an assumption and ask the questions. This always pays off, there is always an angle of an argument that is brought to a different light. Similarly, when working under time pressure, being guilty of efficiency might induce inevitable short cuts and here again assumptions for instance: “This topic was mentioned a few times already, I am sure it’s clear for everyone now”.


The best analogy I could think of is the description of an orange, in your mind this is clearly an orange, you explained it’s an orange and the goal you want to set for the people you are working with or more broadly communicating with is let’s say for this orange to be transformed to a juice.

The times when I was too quick or didn’t iterate enough, I did end up with a strawberry marmalade. Don’t get me wrong a strawberry marmalade can be delicious, it’s just not an orange juice.

And I end up wondering if the propagation of information behaves simultaneously like an electric field and a Markov chain ?


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