Whether through societal conditioning or as a function of innate human nature, people have a general tendency to assume that if they don’t know the answer to a question, then they don’t know the answer. Testing in schools focuses mostly on measuring whether a certain collection of facts is easily recalled. Intelligence in public discourse is evaluated in terms of whether or not participants have immediate clever responses. Value in the workplace assumes busyness is an indicator for efficient productivity.

But the deepest answers come only after long thought. Wisdom often requires listening followed by protracted times of silence. And improvements in the workplace often only come at the cost of having a worker spend time staring out the window and wondering how things could be different.

Slow down and really observe yourself working, if your world lets you. Spend a week—or a month, or a year—on a single question. Allow for pauses in your most important conversations, and seek out people who will do the same.

There are plenty of people running at full speed all around you. And there are plenty of times you should be, too. But there are too few who will sit with a question long beyond the first response their mind offers; and there is a difference between solving problems and getting work done. We need both, but unless we solve some of our biggest problems, the work we do may just make things worse.

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