Dy Lynda Shaw in her book Your Brain is Boss says:

So often we do not see or hear accurately what someone is trying to communicate, because we get the gist and fill in the gaps according to our own experience and perception so far.

You may recognise some of this in your (and the industry) approach to contracts:

  • We do not read the contract in full, we tend to skim read (OFT report 1312 from 2011 said 65% skim read their contracts; new data shows only 0.22% bother to try to read online T&C)
  • As we don’t read the contract, we cannot check we understand our obligations, and simply fill in the gaps according to what we normally do (ARCADIS surveys highlight failure to understand the contract as a main cause of disputes)
  • As we don’t read the contract, we cannot check that both parties understand the contract to mean the same thing (Steve Houghton-Burnett, cited in Lynda Shaw’s book, found the perception gap between the parties is a major contributor to lack of project success)
  • As we don’t read the contract, it cannot drive behaviours that we know can create success, like true collaboration.

But it also applies when problems occur. We don’t listen with the intent to hear them accurately, both the said and the unsaid things. We half-listen and then fill in the gaps to suit our own purposes.

What should we do?

If we could learn how our brains work, we can help them work better, and perhaps we could avoid the blame game in construction.

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