dog watching TV
idiom. A person who is viewing or working with something without understanding what it is or what it does.
dog-watching-TV adj.

Example Citations:
The Warner Robins Air Logistics Center will have a new vice commander Monday as incumbent Brig. Gen. Lawrence H. Stevenson steps down. ...

Stevenson admitted that coming to Robins was a learning experience after spending his career as a pilot and commander of flying units.

"This was my first job in this command and I felt like the dog watching television," he said. "I knew there was a lot going on around me. I just didn't know what it was."
—Gene Rector, "New vice commander coming to WRALC," The Macon Telegraph, February 27, 2003

Despite its strengths, the agent-based simulation industry is still ... a nascent industry that cannot provide reliable figures on market size and revenue opportunities. In addition, the simulations can sometimes be a very rough sell. All too often, a pitch to potential clients produces a dogs-watching-TV response. They don't have the slightest idea what you're talking about, says Roger Jones, a former Los Alamos physicist and the CEO of Complexica, a Santa Fe—based incubator for complexity-based businesses.
—M. Mitchell Waldrop, Chaos, Inc.," Red Herring, January 2003

Earliest Citation:
Wal-Mart has 27 [terabytes] bytes of data [on customers and products] now, and rumors are that that may be expanded.

But that's the easiest thing they do. What they really do is understand how to use all those terabytes. They get the big picture. Some of the people who handle data are like dogs watching TV. Have you ever noticed them? They just don't get it.
—Roger Blackwell, "Reinventing the supply chain," Computerworld, October 20, 1997

Notes:
Also:

[O]nce I saw two dogs that were seated on the floor in front of a television. They appeared to be watching the program, but I doubted whether they were really following the story line. They were just seeing the flickering images on-screen; they had little or no clue what was happening.

I honestly believe that what is happening today in organizations is analogous: many people are finding that their current mindset and skillset serve them poorly in the new game; others are like dogs that are watching TV and just don't get it.
—Stephen R. Covey, "Whole new ball game," Executive Excellence, August 1996

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