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Are you a Hedgehog or a Fox?
Conscious Embodiment and Presence
Conscious Incompetence
Emotional Intelligence (book review)
Happiness at Work (book review)
"I turned my face for a moment ..."
In Praise of Ignorance
Limitation Celebration
Marhsall Goldsmith's Dream
On Valuing
Is Your Diary Out Of Control?
The One Thing You Need to Know
The Paradox of Choice
Parallel Worlds
Playing to our Strengths
Reflections on Being 50
Strengths, Weaknesses and Learned Behaviours
Telling Our Story
Time Management
What really makes people happy?
What is Success?
20 Things Leaders Need to Stop Doing!
In Praise of Ignorance!

I’ve written elsewhere on the virtues of incompetence – now its time to laud ignorance! As an article in Harvard Business Review (Wanted: Chief Ignorance Officer November 2003) points out, ignorance is a precious resource. Whereas knowledge is infinitely re-usable, ignorance is a one-shot deal: once it has been displaced by knowledge, it’s very hard to get back. And once its gone, we tend to follow the well worn paths in our thinking rather than striking out into theunknown. But if we can cultivate a healthy ignorance, then we can increase our ability to be creative and innovative. So, how to do this? The article suggests four principles:

  1. Deferment: Delay jumping to conclusions – or even to hypotheses. Instead hang out in not knowing.
  2. Prematurity: Be willing to act before you have complete knowledge since critical learning often comes from adjusting to unforeseen circumstances.
  3. Irrelevance: Seek inspiration from the seemingly irrelevant and look at things from unexpected vantage points.
  4. Waste: Be like the natural world – expect only a few of your seeds to blossom.
Of course, to claim to be trying to develop our ignorance may not go down too well with our boss so instead we can talk of developing our “nescience” - which merely means the lack of knowledge but sounds so much more impressive! Paying attention to ignorance/nescience can remind us that, if we want knowledge that is worth managing, we have to create it first.

Copyright © 2013. Dr M H Munro Turner. All rights reserved