Embracing the “I Don’t Know”: How Admitting Blind Spots Helps you Get Better

One of the keys to success is to never stop learning. One of the most certain roads to failure is to think you have it all figured out. And yet we have a culture of false confidence, bravado, fake assuredness, and feelings of failure when we don’t have all the answers. Admitting to others we don’t have all the answers (or maybe don’t even know all the questions to ask) positions us into the realm of vulnerability. It is unfortunate that being vulnerable in this regard in our society is so often seen as weakness instead of strength.

Whenever possible we should continue to do our due diligence to research answers, analyze the possibilities of adaptation to circumstance, and replicate practices, procedures and programs when there is an evidence base to support it.

But take a step back and ask yourself: How did those people ever get to a place where they created this (thing, knowledge, solution, etc.) because of the same/similar problem or circumstance?

They got there from embracing the “I Don’t Know”.

“I Don’t Know” stimulates discussion of possibilities.

“I Don’t Know” inspires involvement.

“I Don’t Know” gets people out of thinking they know everything.

“I Don’t Know” is the fuel for continuous improvement.

“I Don’t Know” creates new solutions that become part of the library of potential answers to others when they don’t know.

If you/your organization/your community never says, “I Don’t Know” you are essentially stating you have complete expertise…that you have all the answers. Sometimes it will be possible to find the answer you are looking for elsewhere and truly replicate it with meaning where you are. In other instances the journey that starts with “I Don’t Know” leads down a road of innovation to find or create the answer that never previously existed.

Create a culture where people are encouraged to admit when they don’t know things; when they are seeking answers to situations or problems for which no answer is immediately known. Don’t shame people for having the absence of information. Embrace the possibility of finding the information required or creating a solution where one did not previously exist.

About Iain De Jong

Iain is a playful nerd, hellbent on ending homelessness, increasing affordable housing, creating vibrant communities, and expanding the knowledge amongst leaders that influence social issues. Having held senior management and professional positions in government, non-profits, and the private sector, Iain has a wealth of experience and has garnered dozens of awards for his work across Canada and internationally. His work has taken him across Canada, the United States, and to Australia. In 2009, Iain joined OrgCode as its President & CEO, and in 2014 assumed full ownership of the firm. In addition to his work with OrgCode, Iain holds a part-time faculty position in the Graduate Urban Planning Programme at York University.

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