Almost every one of us has a graduate degree from/in MSU – Making Stuff Up!
I typically poke fun at myself and say,
“I am not sure how many of you know, but I have a Ph.D. in MSU! Did you know that? Yeah, MSU – Making Stuff Up!“
We constantly make stuff up. With a lack of information, we fill the gap. And we almost never have ALL the information, so we MSU.
In a ‘team’ or group context, it would be MSU about other people:
- I know why Jane didn’t forward that memo to me. She is mad because I ate her yogurt last week and she is trying to make me look bad. (May be true, but I don’t REALLY know, right?)
- The reason that senior management created policy was because Howard kept complaining until he got what he wanted.
99% of MSU is detrimental to the group process, whether you are talking to another person or simply thinking these thoughts. Of course, serious damage can occur when we MSU and then pass the MSU on as fact to someone else. This is how rumors begin and is a major thrust of gossip.
MSU does not make us bad people. We all do it and most of us want to do it less. By bringing this to the surface, we raise our own awareness so we can recognize when we are doing it.
If we can recognize when we are MSU, we are able to stick to what we know and lead a much healthier life.
As we begin to be more conscious of our MSU, most people begin to ask more questions. Instead of wondering if Jane didn’t mention the memo to me because she is mad, I simply ask her if there was some reason she did not forward the memo to me. Oh, and I also apologize for eating her yogurt!
This can also be a great team tool to check in with one another, with enough trust:
TRUE STORY from our team. I was in the kitchen and had shared some information about another person to several others.
“Interesting James, is that fact or MSU?” Which made me reflect and I realized what I said was actually 50% MSU. I rephrased, stated what I knew and apologized for the MSU. It prevented some serious damage to our team.
Consider reading more about how to interrupt this in a structured way by learning about the Ladder of Inference.