( Guest Post ) – Let Ignorance be Your Advantage

by Roy H. Williams:

Ignorant people aren’t stupid but merely uninformed; a marvelous advantage when you need a perspective from “outside the box.”

The truly naïve are so thoroughly “outside” they’re not even sure what you mean by “the box.”

When you consult specialists within your industry, you’re talking to the builders of the box, the guardians of the box, the faithful defenders of THE BOX.

So when specialists fail to provide the innovative thinking you need, ask the opinions of intelligent people who have no experience in your industry. This is the second quickest shortcut to successful innovation. (I’ll tell you the quickest shortcut later.)

Each suggestion you hear will tempt you to say,

“But you don’t understand…”

Bite your tongue. Don’t say it. The goal of this exercise isn’t to drag people into your box but to get a fresh perspective from outside it, remember? So just listen and ponder all that would have to change if you were to implement the suggestion made by your naïve friend.

The naïve suggestion won’t be workable. What you make from it will be.

Frank Kern is senior vice-president of IBM Global Business Services. On May 19, 2010, he released a new survey of 1,500 chief executives conducted by IBM’s Institute for Business Value. Are you ready for this? According to that survey, today’s CEOs identify “creativity” as the most important leadership competency for the successful enterprise of the future.

“That’s creativity—not operational effectiveness, influence, or even dedication. Coming out of th e worst economic downturn in their professional lifetimes, when managerial discipline and rigor ruled the day, this indicates a remarkable shift in attitude.” – Frank Kern, IBM Global Business Services

BUT we’re not getting more creative. As our society moves deeper into this Civic cycle (2003-2023) we’re becoming more deeply committed to following the rules. We’re becoming more regulatory, less tolerant of divergent thought. Under the guise of “working together for the common good,” our young men and women are choosing to become guardians of the status quo, especially when it comes to problem solving. In short, we’re “playing it safe.”

When it comes to advertising and marketing, “playing it safe” is the least safe thing you can do.

A report just released from M.I.T. reveals a surprising connection between progress and “playing it safe.”

When bonuses were given for increased performance, the bigger the bonus, the better the performance when only mechanical skills were required. No surprise here, right?

But when bonuses were offered for cognitive skills, even rudimentary ones, higher incentives led to poorer performance. I swear I’m not making this up.

“These findings have been replicated over and over and over again by psychologists, by sociologists, and by economists.” – Prof. Daniel Pink

Daniel Pink speculates that we respond most strongly to offers of 1. autonomy, 2. mastery and 3. purpose.

Watch this video:


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I agree with Pink but I interpret the M.I.T. data with a slightly different twist; it seems to me that the higher the reward, the greater the tendency of respondents to second-guess their creative right-brain impulses.

In other words, they over-thunk it and “played it safe.”

Fear is a terrible master.

It is by attempting the ridiculous that we accomplish the miraculous.

“If you will expand your world, you must crawl on your hands and knees, get on your belly and squirm under the fence that surrounds your insulated life.” – Inside the Outside, Wizard Academy Press

Rita Mae Brown says it more colorfully. “As a woman, I find it very embarrassing to be in a meeting and realize I’m the only one in the room with balls.”

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To learn about Roy and what he and his staff have cooking up at the Wizard Academy, click here…

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Filed under: Personal Achievement

3 Responses to “( Guest Post ) – Let Ignorance be Your Advantage”

  1. Thanks for this article…

  2. Barry & Heather, thanks so much for this post. It really is an eye-opener about motivations and purpose.

    Why is it that something so important, finding and following a purpose, seems to be the farthest thing from our/my mind?

    I realized early that I did not fit ‘into the box’ and, since this kind of research was not available sooner, my need for autonomy often led farther away from any kind of purpose. I hope I am not alone in this.

    Purposes, like any other goal that is not followed, will soon disappear or lose importance if not recognized and fulfilled. Getting old is often equated with loosing purpose.

    I am going to pass this link on to my current boss and supervisors and see what their take is on it.

  3. This is notably the BEST advice I have seen for lighting a bottle rocket under your activities. ALL (and I mean ALL) innovations have traditionally come from OUTSIDE one’s field, sparked by people who have no training in that particular field. Of course, mostly they ARE thinking people educated in other fields.

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