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I don’t know . . .

By Dan Hadaway | Saturday, April 8, 2023 - Leave a Comment

a great answer . . .

Especially if you follow-up by hunting down the answer!
Another one of those Dan’s New Leaf Posts, meant to inspire thought about IT Governance . . . .


Once upon a time . . . in the early aughts . . .  I listened to a veterinarian on a local university radio station.   He was adamantly positive that dogs do not have personalities.   It didn’t seem right to me, as I listened to people disagree for the rest of the show.  I was just trying to find something to bide my time, while traveling back and forth to Kokomo.  

Starting with the pandemic, I have spent more time with my two Yorkies than I ever have, with any of my dogs in my life.  Now I love dogs – the story of my life has several dog names weaving in and out of it.  There are actually only twelve names, though I can assign a dog’s name to every year of my life.  The longest living dog to-date, Cassie, a miniature doberman pincher, died at age 19.  The dogs in my life have been family; I have known them well and spent a LOT of time with them.

But I have never . . . ever . . .  spent as much time with any of my previous best-friend-dogs as I have with Rocky and Coco, our two Yorkies.  (You might recognize Rocky, pictured in this post, who helps us with our social engineering from time to time!)

These two Yorkies prove that poor veterinarian wrong.

Yorkies are popular dogs, primarily because they DO have strong personalities.  There is no way around it.  Rocky’s personality is completely different than Coco’s.  

But in the past year, I have also proven, through the use of treats, that Rocky and Coco also know how to count.  And holy canine batman:  they also understand size.

I know what you’re wondering, as you read this.  Why would Dan put this bit about Yorkie’s in a Dan’s New Leaf article? 

Even though it was way back in around 2003, maybe 2002, I also always remember how that interview started out.  That veterinarian did not want to spend the whole interview defending himself.  He didn’t even mean to talk about dog personalities.  If I remember right, he actually answered a question, “do dogs have personalities,” by saying something like, “I’m not exactly sure, but in my opinion . . . ”    

But his “opinion” seemed interesting – at least, debatable – so the interviewer kept the topic on the personality subject, and so did the callers.   The veterinarian had to take a position he wasn’t even sure of.

Because he didn’t just say, “I don’t know.”

I see this at cybersecurity conferences way too much, where speakers or exhibitors will take a posture outside their area of expertise, and then have to spend way too much energy defending that posture.

It’s why I tell each of our consultants that our most important answer is:  “I don’t know.”

Until we do know.

I moderate an AMA during some of the conferences I attend.  Ask me anything.  Do you know what my stand-by answer is?  I don’t know.  But I can find out.  Usually from one of the audience members.  But if nobody has a satisfactory answer, I use the note, and be sure to follow-up.

And people will try to talk you out of that answer.  While “I’m not sure” was close to “I don’t know,” the interviewer of that veterinarian succeeded in talking the veterinarian into an answer.

But we MUST stick to our “I don’t know,” even if asked to guess.  We must stick that answer, until we have the true answer. And the difference between a good consultant, and a great consultant, is how diligent we are at following through, and finding the right answer, especially when the question came from a Client.

And as a person seeking information, we should all respect the answer, “I don’t know,” especially when it comes from an expert.

I could end with an analogy or metaphor, but Coco is wanting to know how many treats Rocky got this morning, and I don’t know.  Plus, she’s noticing that the bowl I used for Rocky is bigger than the one I used for her.  I wish I could help her understand the concept of proportionality, but  . . . I don’t know!

Original article by Dan Hadaway CRISC CISA CISM. Founder and Managing Partner, infotex

Dan’s New Leaf” is a “fun blog to inspire thought in the area of IT Governance.”



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