Sep 04 2011
I don’t know – don’t let that stop you
In response to a recent post, Malcolm McKinnon writes:
“I disagree with your statement that ‘I don’t know’ is akin to saying ‘I’m dead’, rather I think ‘I don’t care… to advance’ is the sentiment to be damned. In fact, I think ‘I don’t know’ can be a critical element of avoiding groupthink and advancing empowerment and technology.
“Saying ‘I don’t know’ or perhaps ‘I don’t understand’ is a useful tactic for a low legitimate power minority perspective holder trying to expose a group’s weak decision.
“Isn’t ‘empowerment’ emboldened by managers admitting that those doing are best positioned to make change suggestions? Isn’t ‘I don’t know’ an important part of that process?
“In a world of questionably researched / motivated content, written by only self-professed experts, is ‘I don’t know’ an important signal of trust in a message and associated politic infused world?
“While I agree we have an abundance of knowledge sources – and Google seems ‘all-knowing’, I sense the message ‘I don’t know’ is not one to be damned, but rather, in some instances to be encouraged. We should save our criticism for not caring to advance, for accepting ‘status quo dogma’.”
Malcolm, I agree with the sentiment of your comment. “Not knowing” is a far more powerful orientation that “I (or we) already know.” “Already knowing” suppresses thinking, re-thinking, creativity, innovation.
People have a tendency to translate the issue they are currently facing into a problem they already know how to solve – because they already know how to solve that problem. Already know can be deadly.
The issue I was pointing to was the readiness to let not knowing how to be a stop. “Not knowing” is not the issue. Letting that stop you is the issue. Not knowing can be a real source of power – but not if you let it stop you.
If the pioneers (go West young man, go West) said, “I don’t know how to grow potatoes in this ground” – and stopped there – rather than trying things, seeing what would grow, experimenting to find out how, they would have died earlier than they did.
How many people are killing themselves and their organizations with, “I don’t know how”? That’s the part that concerns me.