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Do You Use Ignorance As A Tool?


Peter Drucker once told a class about how he would practice “ignorance.”

This means that he went to each situation with the beginner’s mind or like he had no clue what was going on.

In leading a workshop about two weeks ago with some non-profit executives, this idea of “ignorance” struck me in the middle of the workshop because as we worked through an exercise about mission, I realized that far too many of the leaders were part of organizations that had mission statements that presented their work like you were intimate with all areas of the problem and solution.

Which isn’t likely the case.

I think that if we were to approach every situation with a little bit of ignorance, we might learn a lot.

In many cases, I think we almost feel embarrassed if we don’t know the answer immediately. It is partly due to our on-demand culture, but I think we have also bred an environment where being wrong is seen as a negative and instead just a part of the learning process.

Look at politics, how often do we allow our political leaders to say they have changed their mind?

We don’t usually.

Now it is a sign of weakness to admit that you learned something new or your opinion has changed.

In business its the same thing, we become so wed to one set of answers or one solution that we lose sight of everything else.

In non-profits, do we get stuck on how much we know about a problem that we can’t imagine what it is like for someone not to know the answer? To not have an opinion? To have an entirely different opinion?

The best salespeople have a certain amount of ignorance.

They ask questions to figure out where their prospects and clients are to help find out what the real issues are.

The best businesspeople should be ignorant so that they don’t make assumptions about what the situation is. They don’t make assumptions about the only solution because they’ve dealt with this challenge before. They are ignorant because by being ignorant they are able to ask better questions. And, better questions offer better answers.

How ignorant are you most of the time?

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