Stop Working Hard to Remain Stupid
Inexperience is under rated.
Inexperienced people enjoy the courage of ignorance. They say, “Why not” rather than “we tried that.” Ignorance allows them to see what could be. They see fewer problems and more opportunities. They try because they haven’t failed.
Stupid and experienced:
Benjamin Franklin said, “We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.”
I’ve enabled my stupidity by working hard at not changing. Looking back, I see how I tended to employ the same methods too long hoping results would magically change. I kept thinking it will work rather than acknowledging it wasn’t.
I’m the victim of perseverance gone wrong.
Thomas Edison wisely said, “Many of life’s failures are experienced by people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” Edison didn’t, however, spend his life performing the same failed experiment, in the same way; over and over again.
The wisdom of perseverance is adaptability.
These days, I’m including inexperienced people in my circle of friends. They challenge me to adapt. All I need do is shut up and listen.
Three Benefits of inexperience:
- Open minds.
- Quick to complain.
- Don’t know it can’t be done.
Three Drawbacks of the inexperience:
- Talking too much.
- Neglecting relationships.
- Discounting ramifications.
Six strategies for leveraging the inexperienced:
- Character matters more than experience. Go with character.
- Core leadership competencies matter more than subject matter expertise. An ignorant person with leadership skills goes further than an expert who can’t lead.
- Challenge them to move through complaining to developing next steps.
- Avoid explaining what can’t be done.
- Fuel their courage. Encourage them frequently and listen intently.
- Give and receive constant feedback.
Stop working hard to remain stupid. Leadership is about inexperience – doing things you haven’t already done – and learning as you go.
What other drawbacks and benefits do the inexperienced bring?
How might leaders or organizations better leverage the inexperienced?
Love it! Love the last line about doing things you haven’t done before.
So often for me if it is unfamiliar and scary I assume it can’t or shouldn’t be done, because it feels uncomfortable. So I really like the idea of viewing change and not-knowing as a positive opportunity to learn and enhance leadership skills.
Thanks for your encouraging response.
This post comes from experience 🙂
The last line was a tag on. I wasn’t sure it fit but after writing this post it was what I felt. I’m glad you found it useful.
As a coach, I tell clients I’m better off not knowing anything about your business. They tilt their heads, stare, and give me that look your dog gives you when they’re curious. What do you mean Steve?
Coming from a place of not knowing allows me to ask questions you the client has never thought about before. If it’s a question you’ve answered before, I can ask it in a unique way that will make you think differently.
This is what “coaching” is all about.
You remind me how important it is to have the courage to ask “stupid” questions.
Wise leaders fuel the courage of inexperienced leaders to ask stupid questions.
Thanks for making me think…
Channeling my inner Trekie today, Dan . . . “to boldly go where no man has gone before.” The Daniel Boone spirit is indeed a huge advantage in leadership, and I agree that experience can often quash that spirit. Great post.
One thing I’ve learned is that the legacy thinkers are quick to tell the new guy what happened when we tried that ten years ago. It’s important to realize that a lot of things change in ten years, not the least of them technology, so maybe then we were simply out ahead of things and that idea is exactly what we need now.
Great seeing you today. I love the original corny, over acted Star Trek. I have an old communicator floating around somewhere.
Great expression “legacy thinkers.” We’ll all acknowledge how easy it is to fondly look back. It’s like a warm blanket.
Practically, as I said today, I’m learning the value of the newbies.
You have my best,
Good post, as always Dan.
I think the best way to leverage inexpperience is to pay more attention to thei “Why” question. Or perhaps better stated, “You have always dont it that way, why do you still?” The world continues to change. there will always be new toys, but more importantly fresh ways of thinking at any “old” situation.
You are right, it is hard to forcefully stay in our rut of ignorance, but with it comes the risk of losing all of our enthusiasm and forward thinking.
It sounds a little “Zen-oid”, but it important for us to keep our beginner’s heart and mind. This will keep our own thinking fresh, and help us remain open minded to some new ideas.
If everyone is really a member of the team, then everyone has something to bring. No one should be discounted because of age (old or young), or experience (too much or too little).
Love the “beginners heart and mind.” Perhaps I should have written about the dangers of experience.
For me, the best way to keep my beginners mind is keeping some beginners around me.
Thanks for all you do.
Great post. This is an excellent point. The funny thing is that I quite often find myself getting frustrated with the “why” questions of youth & ignorance. “Why do we do it that way?” “Why can’t we do it like this?” I need to remind myself to not discount these questions so quickly and be more open to the possibility that there may be a different & better way.
I like to follow the “why questions” with “what can you do about it?” 🙂 … Lets get this party started
Hi Dan, another goody, great work.
Not quite the alliterative feast that Doc provided the other day but-
To experience new experiences you must constantly engage yourself with inexperience.
People, places, projects, personal.
Never ignore what a fresh perspective can bring to the party.
Enjoy the energy inexperience delivers, don’t be tempted to beat it into submission.
Pretty darn good. Sometimes you guys make me feel like putting my keyboard away .. 🙂
I’m with you. I keep learning to hold back the voice of experience and listen more to the voice of inexperience.
I’m always thankful to see you here.
Dan, that’s not allowed 🙂
If Google does indeed make you stupid,( by turning us into information skimmers rather than readers – link to article below), I suppose I don’t have to work hard at being stupid, but rather skim over posts and articles and potentially draw the wrong conclusions.
I had to read this twice… After the first read, I couldn’t help but think “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread”, but a second read made it clear… We often limit ourselves by our previous experiences. (“We tried that… it didn’t work).
After my second read, I fully agree with you… we should have ‘inexperienced people’ in our circle of friends. They look at our situation from a different perspective. On our team, we want experienced people with a certain type of personality.
We thrive when we have people with the tenacity of a fox trying to get into a hen house… He’ll keep trying from every direction to solve the problem. He knows there’s a solution in there somewhere – he just has to find it.
Thanks for the great post on bringing in the inexperienced into our feedback loop.
Here’s the link to the Atlantic article on Google:
I’m nearing the end of an internship that I took on after one year in the “real world” post-college to gain a different kind of experience. Mostly I feel unqualified up against job descriptions that ask for lots of skills and years of experience. This post encourages and inspires me; I should apply for jobs that seem maybe a little out of reach, because who knows what the hiring managers might be thinking or looking for (and hopefully they’re reading your blog!) Thanks!!
I loved this post. One of the advantages of all the new technology tools, is that it has made beginners of people who would have been considered experienced otherwise. I fall into that category. Ouch.
We are forced into the discomfort of a beginner. We are forced to think in new ways. We are forced into new marketing strategies and new presentation modalities. We are either willing to become a beginner all over again or be considered outdated instead of wise.
It is sometimes quite painful, but it is a great way to fight the battle against dementia. I am constantly having to form new neuro pathways in my brain whenever I learn any new technology skill to keep me current.
The onslaught of technology has leveled the playing field between the valued experienced team member and the valued cyber guru who can help us make the most of our experience in today’s playing field.
I think fostering a “spirit” of inexperience is invaluable…always. It is that innocent and endless curiosity. Inexperienced people often bring with them wonder and hope in the possibilities, and without that people become stagnant in ideas and incapable of moving forward. The same group of people pushing the same wagon up a hill will likely get the same results, but if a new person attaches himself to that wagon, he brings with him new perspective, and potential ideas for how to do it differently (and sometimes better) Hope springs eternal… MMF
To negatively riff off of the Statue of Liberty…
“Give me your tired, your entrenched, your staid and anchored ensconced, those jaded bastions who say they have tried it before and failed, those who have always done it this way, the crispy critters, those who think they look but do not see, and those talk but do not listen…and I will tell you exactly where we will be for eternity.”
And from a positive perspective…
Fresh eyes realize…and not just the inexperienced, but perhaps ‘outsiders’ see you very differently that you and those around you. Put your operation on display for external review…talk about transparency! It can build a network and only help to improve services across the continuum.
Once had a group from Holland come visit our hospital (to others we had achieved some successes and they wanted to see us in action). While we weren’t full of ourselves, we were pretty darn proud of what we had done and wanted to share approaches and concepts So we hosted 7 people for 2+ days and still did everything we always do. Then when we did something that really was archaic, beyond retro, and definitely not person centric, they called us on it (diplomatically of course). We had yet another V8 moment and wondered how we had not seen it before. After their excellent visit, they came away having learned some things they could do back home and we learned just as much, if not more from them.
Hi Doc, having people from the outside the country really makes a huge difference as you pointed out. We recently had a group of physicians from Russia visit us. We learned a lot from them as well. It was a little difficult communicating with an interpreter but we managed. I find that it is not only what we learn but also what we confirm and validate about the things we do better. The plus side was I learned a little Russian while they were here and have promised to visit when my language skills are better. 🙂
Now that was awesome!
The reality is that the “new employee syndrome” wears off totally by 90 days (I think the actual number is 62, but who is counting?).
The average US organization has about 25% of its employees “engaged and involved.” In Japan, that number is 1/3 of Korea, and Korea only at 8% (and I am not talking about NORTH Korea here!).
I had a automotive dealership as a client and one of the really funny thing the techs would do is that someone would yell out, “Hey, Stupid!” and ALL of the techs would yell back, “What?” (You can guess at the origins of that — and it was really funny to see that happen (when no customers were around!).
Being new and dumb is good, but being treated as stupid just causes so many self-fulfilling prophecies in most organizations.
Me, I believe that everyone has good ideas about making things better — ALL things. Being new offers the benefits you mentioned. But being punished simply causes the outer protective shell to close and the inner employee to remain more safe.
My advice to most workers is to keep one’s head down, but their chin up. So many of them work behind the systems to keep things operating. Thank them!
Dan: in uber-agreement here.
My favorite experience with this (on both sides of the coin) is when an ambitious newcomer joins the team, fires passionate ideas at his peers and management, is heavily discouraged by all because it won’t work and then he goes and does it anyway and it DOES work.
That is character and people willing to continue to believe in themselves even after heavy pressure to abandon their ideas are the future leaders of our best companies.
Another interesting post.
It reminds me of the definition of insanity – Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I agree, we all have to actively listen to the “why” questions without getting defensive. I really like your response Dan of “what can you do about it?” Talk about a way to get someone engaged and/or to get buy-in!
I want to start off by saying, “Thank you Dan”!
I’m new to Leadership Freak. Normally I read information, use what I can, pass it on if it’s good information and keep it moving. Reading this post caused me to really reflect on my thoughts and actions as a leader. It has also prompted me to consider taking greater risk with my actions as well as elevating expectations from my staff, ALL members of the staff. This strategy will encourage an atmosphere of free-thought; which will lead to the birth of many ideas. As the leader, I’m tasked with navigating myself and the team through the development process. Using the suggested six strategies is a great start!
Great post Dan!