I don’t know Jack Squat!
I make a living of not knowing. That sounds like an odd statement, but it is true. I embrace not knowing and see it as a powerful tool. It took me years to understand this benefit. Our world is filled with purported experts; people who claim to know all. Common wisdom subscribes to the belief that in order to be a successful business leader, you must have all the answers. That is incredibly flawed thinking.
Shunryu Suzuki said “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” Using Suzuki’s term, beginner’s mind is the place where innovation is found. It is the pathway to finding answers, to getting unstuck.
Unfortunately, leaders are often trained to believe that admitting they don’t know is a sign of weakness. It is not the lack of knowledge that is the issue; it is failing to ask the right questions and take the needed action. There are two common traps when it comes to our need to know and the origins of both are ego. The first is an actual belief that we do have all the answers. Here, we find companies mired in organizational habits and limited by existing thought paradigms. Further, we find employees who are bright out of the box thinkers frustrated and less engaged. The second trap is the fear of our not knowing becoming public. A leader who does not have the answer, but is afraid to come forward with that fact, becomes paralyzed. It is analogous to an ostrich burying its head in the sand. Problems don’t get solved, companies get stuck and employees disengage. A leader must get out of the way of ego and embrace not knowing.
The collective intelligence of an organization is vastly superior to the knowledge of any one individual. Let me ask you, the reader a question, if the leader of your organization assembled the company’s best and brightest minds and started a meeting by stating that she does not have the answer as to why the results aren’t being achieved, but that together, those answers would be found, would you view that as weakness? I would hope not. A leader who sets aside ego and meets a challenge with beginner’s mind is far more likely to find the needed solution and achieve the desired outcomes. There is organizational intimacy within every company. By that I mean, that the cure to a problem most often lies with those closest to its’ source. It is a leader’s job to unlock that intimacy and to surface that knowledge. That ability comes from not knowing and from asking those that do.
I make a living of not knowing. I bring a beginner’s mind to every new engagement. I work to unlock organizational intimacy. Don’t simply trust my words instead test my hypothesis. Take a current challenge that you face and embrace not knowing, bring to it a beginner’s mind and see what results.
If you are interested in learning more about this approach and how best to leverage the collective intelligence of your team and unlock your organizational intimacy, schedule a free growth assessment.
Thanks for reading.