Embrace ignorance, leverage knowledge!

Weird as it may seem, a vital element of leveraging your knowledge is to be found in embracing your ignorance. Without embracing your ignorance, there is no room for creativity, invention, innovation or design, thus there is little ability to leverage your knowledge beyond what is required to maintain the status quo!

Why embracing your ignorance is the vital key to leveraging your knowledge

One of the biggest ironies of life is that most business owners, senior executives, managers, and others whose livelihood depends on them being innovative or being effective problem solvers cannot easily move beyond what they know in their search for solutions. The reason for most people is that they focus almost all their attention on leveraging their knowledge – what they know and have done in the past – and shy away from embracing their ignorance, i.e. what they do not know.

After all, focusing your thoughts on what you know makes a whole lot of sense: you can only sell or use what you know. If I know about marketing, I can use that expertise or sell that expertise to someone else who can use it. The same goes for product development knowledge, performance improvement knowledge, coaching skills, or creativity and innovation-enhancement knowledge, etc.

After all, we go to school to learn things so that we know them. We take training programs to learn things so that we know them. We are trained on the job to learn things so that we know them. And we use our knowledge every day to be productive in our work. So what could be more important than focusing our attention on what we know?

The answer is as simple as it is profound: we need to focus on what we do not know. The opportunities to improve, to grow, to make more money, to serve more people, and to do more are to be found in what we do not know versus what we know already.

An example of how embracing ignorance will help you leverage knowledge

Let us look at a quick example. Imagine you are looking at starting a new marketing campaign. You could update your old marketing plan. After all, it makes sense to use what you’ve already done. You would look at the strategies, the tactics, the media, the messages, and evaluate your past results and perhaps even those of your competitors. You determine what you want to start, what you wish to stop, and what you need to continue or improve upon. Makes sense right?

Actually, it does not. The most successful marketing campaigns in history in any industry have all broken the past molds of that very industry. The same goes for product innovation and countless other functional contributions. Any successfully innovative product has had to make at least one if not more radical departures from what was done before. The very definition of creativity is new and useful, so the more it is new and useful it is from any industry’s point of view, the more successful it will be.

Now, the only way to embrace something new is to see the gap it will address and feel a distinct need to address it. (Note: the gap can be a shortfall to be remedied or unrealized potential that could be captured).  And the only way see that gap at all is to admit that there is a gap and, at the moment of noticing this gap, that you do not yet have an solution. So off you go looking for an answer, i.e. off you go being creative and innovative.

And that is how you embrace ignorance!

Embracing ignorance exercise

Try this exercise. Ask yourself: “How much do I not know about my current challenges?” Whether they these challenges are problems or opportunities, take a look at all that you do not know by making a list of over 25 aspects integral to the challenge (or that will seriously affect the challenge) that you do not know. The first few will be easy, but stretch yourself and force yourself to come up with at least 15, preferably 25. Research has shown that you will likely find your most fruitful beginnings for breakthroughs in those last five or 10 aspects that you worked so hard to discover.

And when you do this and discovered the power of embracing your ignorance, drop me a line and tell me about it. You see, I admit that I am ignorant about what you are doing and how you have applied this information. And I would so like to know….

So please do tell me below or by e-mail.

Thanks!

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