Monday, December 14, 2009

Embrace Ignorance

Ideas come from curiosity. Admitting that you don’t know all the answers, and
encouraging others to do likewise, leads everyone to explore new possibilities.

Steven Covey, in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, offers a
“Time Management Matrix” in which activities are classified as “urgent” or “non-urgent”, and “important” or “not important”. He makes the point that our time is
usually taken up with “urgent” things that clamour for our attention. To get
ahead, we need to make time for the things that are “non-urgent”
but “important”.

To make a difference we have to pay attention to the things that are non-urgent and important; otherwise we are just reacting to what is put in our path to deal with.

Difference-making is pioneering. We enter new territory where we do not know all the
answers. We have to be willing to admit our ignorance and generate a lot of new

Admitting ignorance takes courage, because traditionally leaders are supposed
to know the answers. Be willing to ask “naïve” questions. Make it clear that you
intend these questions as a catalyst for creative thinking. Focus your attention on
something that others think they know and take for granted.

Accept that when it comes to new ideas, you won’t know if they will work, until
you try. Set up an experiment or pilot program. If you don’t get the results you
want, don’t just give up; just change the conditions of the experiment. The risk of
being wrong brings with it the chance of being right.

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