How to Turn Confusion Into Knowledge


When you start something completely new – like a new job – you might feel confused. Confusion is a fascinating emotion. We feel it when we encounter something that’s new, complex and unfamiliar to us and we don’t have much knowledge around this yet.
That’s what it felt like for me when I switched from science where I had years of experience to supply chain. People were using words I never heard before, working with systems I didn’t know exist and in my head I was “SAP what? make-to-order what? supply feedback what?”.
I felt confused. Oh so confused!
When you feel like that, you have two options:
  1. Disengage and retract. 
  2. Double down and working through.
What about yourself? Which option do you choose? Might it be different on different occasions? What’s driving you down one route or the other? If you choose option 2 and put in some effort to understand you build up a web of knowledge. You start to understand how things relate to each other, what the words mean and your confusion turns into interest.


Interest is a knowledge emotion we feel when something is surprising and we already have a base of knowledge. (As opposed to confusion where don’t know what the heck is going on.)
Say you like baking and have a good understanding that there’s egg, flour, butter and milk going into a cake. Now someone tells you “you can make a vegan cake that has no egg, butter or milk”. You may feel surprised and interested to learn what they use instead.
To move from confused to interested, find a way to get an understanding of the basics. This is where a proper on-boarding schedule in a new team comes in handy. Ask your manager or your new colleagues: What do I need to understand? Who do I need to speak to? Where can I get this or that information?This may take some time to build up. But with effort, patience and your growth mindset in hand, you’ll get there.
If you want to fuel your interest in a topic, map out what you already know about it and then pay attention to
  • What is new? What have I never heard of before?
  • What didn’t I expect/ what did I think was going to be different?
  • What else might there be that I don’t know?
  • What could the implications of this new information be/ what does it mean in a different context?
Happy learning!

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