The power of Ignorance
According to the free dictionary, stupid people make poor decisions and careless mistakes. On the other hand, ignorant people are unaware or uninformed. You’ll need these two definitions to understand what follows.
Careless mistakes and poor decisions (stupidity) are made by the uninformed (ignorant).
Ignorance leads to stupidity.
If you assume you are ignorant you won’t be stupid.
Last Friday a young leader asked for advice. As they began talking, I began assuming I knew the situation. However, I’ve learned that ignorance results in stupid advice so I kept asking questions and restating their replies. Four questions later I was thankful I didn’t go with my first impression because the information I gathered changed the recommendations I made. Assuming my own ignorance protected me from stupidity.
Anger is a symptom of ignorance.
Have you blown up only to discover your anger was based on partial or misinformation? You acted in ignorance and apologized later. Stated bluntly, ignorance made you stupid.
Three steps to solving ignorance.
#1 – Assume you are ignorant.
#2 – Embrace your ignorance by withholding judgment.
#3 – Ask the best questions.
The best questions are the ones you
think you’ve already answered.
Embracing ignorance protects leaders from stupidity.
Can you offer other symptoms of ignorance? What techniques can you add that help solve ignorance.
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This is sound advice indeed. But could I suggest a fourth step to solving ignorance? Listen to the answer to your question (and don’t presume that the respondent understands the question the way you do!). (I think your “restatement of their replies” assumes this, but wanted to post a reply for once to prove I was paying attention, if not actively listening…)
Thanks man! I appreciate you adding to the conversation! Great point, the listener has their own set of assumptions.
Paul is connected to: http://www.mdatraining.com/index.asp
I could have used this information two weeks ago.
Thanks for leaving a comment.
My problem is, tomorrow I will forget that I knew this today! “Stupid is as stupid does!”
I can relate to this. Thanks for the insight!!
Thanks for leaving a word of affirmation. It always feels good.
Best to you,
Well put, Dan. Thanks. Anger’s also a symptom of fear.
Being good with ‘I don’t know everything’ can be a solid way to allow excellence to rise in a group and/or organization.
Great to see you and thanks for leaving a useful link.
I love this post!!! I loved it so much, that I reposted it on FB & Twitter to my friends!
I always love seeing that you have dropped in. I think of you and your business from time to time.
I’m going to look you up on Facebook.
Thanks for the good word. I appreciate it.
Jose’s website: http://trinitylifefit.wordpress.com/
In the safety world we are often faced with having to find the root cause(s) of a problem that has led to an injury. One popular technique that would apply to your question of dissolving ignorance is known as “5 Whys.” For example, once you have encountered a problem with someone ask them “Why” questions at least five times. By the end of your “5 Whys” the nature of the problem and the solution become clear. Mind you, this technique is more difficult than you think.
Another point to make is that we often become trapped in projecting our personal bias on people we listen to and miss the points they are trying to make or we fill in the blanks with our own experiences.
As usual you’re adding value to LF readers… thanks for the 5 whys. I must say, I prefer asking the whys more than answering them. 🙂
Best to you.
Any LF readers wanting to connect with Jim, his email is published on his website http://www.leemanngroup.com/index.html
I always love your blog posts. They are very thought provoking.
I agree with Jim in his statement about projecting, which driven people often do. I often find myself thinking two steps ahead, and can often miss the point of the question. I really appreciate your example about probing for further information.
I have also found that most people who are asking for my advice will eventually answer their own question if I give them the opportunity. Although it doesn’t always happen, people who are asking for advice are often just looking for someone to agree or direct. By asking further questions and admiting my own ignorance, people usually come to their own conclusions, which only empowers them.
Thanks for the great post and keep ’em coming.
Great to have you commenting on this one. Thank you for your kind words. It’s an honor to have you participate.
I can echo your comment that frequently people who ask for advice don’t really want advice. I have found that working through options with people helps them come to their own conclusion.
I like how you tag “driven people” with projecting. Good call.
Jakes website: http://www.godrivesolutions.com/
Great, provocative post, Dan. Why would I refuse to assume a posture of ignorance? Most honest? Hubris. I know if I don’t cultivate the virtue of humility I don’t have a chance to escape the inevitability of my own stupidity.
Well said. Clear, concise and too the point.
I look forward to hearing more from you.
Wow. Thanks Dan for beautiful piece of advice.
Couple of weeks back i was in the same position. After giving feedback i realized i should have understood or look through the eyes of questioner.
But now i know what to do when some one comes up to me.
Welcome to LF and thank you for leaving your first comment. I invite you to keep coming back.
I find this lesson is one I keep learning over and over again.
Best to you,
Thanks for the great post – it’s always useful to be reminded of how ignorant we can be (especially when start thinking we arent’)!
Thank you for the good word. I know I need reminding.
I hope you keep coming back.
I love this post (and I love the short list even more). This is so good. I think to assume a posture of ignorance, you definitely need to humble yourself. Nobody likes arrogance!
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The judgement on stupidity can be made only after the event, not before. Mahathma Gandhi made a stupid statement, when he said we shall attain freedom with non violence. India got rid of the British rule in 1947