I’m a lucky guy. I regularly get to work with a whole bunch of interesting people from a whole bunch of different industries. Highly skilled people with an enormous amount of knowledge in specific fields I know next to nothing about.
Consequently I often get to be the dumbest person in the room.
And what a wonderful thing it is.
It means I’m constantly learning new things, fascinating things, intriguing things.
Accepting your ignorance means you can come to new ideas with child-like wonder. A child isn’t expected to know everything, they have no need to project an image of knowledge and control, no intellectual pretence we adults feel duty-bound to maintain. They are free to open their eyes wide and say ‘wow’ when they are introduced to something new.
Embracing your stupidity is really liberating, and incredibly important when it comes to creativity and innovation. When you venture into new territories, by definition no-one has been there before, so there is no existing knowledge you can draw on. You have to get comfortable with your ignorance, and trust that you will have the skills to interpret the unfamiliar landscape you find yourself in, and make sense of it in your own way.
It’s an idea that is backed up by innovation specialist, Dr Amantha Imber, who recommends when we come into work each day, we ‘Start by being stupid’. Because when you are steeped in a particular area of endeavour, it is often difficult to see it from a new perspective. Putting on your ‘stupid’ hat can help you look at things fresh. Or bringing someone in who hasn’t been schooled in your particular discipline is another great way to bring an unencumbered viewpoint to the situation.
Our creative, child-like wonder is educated out of us by a system that rewards knowledge, not innovative thinking. Yet innovative thinking is exactly what we need in order to address the economic, social, political and environmental issues we face today.
If you want to develop great ideas that will stand out like the proverbials, sometimes the smartest thing you can do is embrace your stupidity.