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:
- Deferment: Delay jumping to conclusions – or even to hypotheses. Instead hang out in not knowing.
- Prematurity: Be willing to act before you have complete knowledge since critical learning often comes from adjusting to unforeseen circumstances.
- Irrelevance: Seek inspiration from the seemingly irrelevant and look at things from unexpected vantage points.
- Waste: Be like the natural world – expect only a few of your seeds to blossom.