The value of staying stupid

Overall, I think intelligence is over-rated when it comes to leading a business venture.  As a society, we like to tout intelligence as a means to measure someone's overall value.  I would argue that it can actually become a liability if you are not paying attention.

J. Paul Getty was credited with saying that "In times of rapid change, experience could be your worst enemy."  I believe that "experience" can be translated into "knowledge" because the danger he refers to is the belief the we "know" what to do because we are already successful and have done it before.  This is a prime example of where being stupid pays off!  Experience can be a dear teacher if we understand the nuances of time.  Heraclitus said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.”  Intelligent folks sometimes overlook this and pay a heavy penalty for their short-sightedness.

We have to be aware of the difference between things we "know" and things we "believe".  We often mistake one for the other which is driven by our own hubris.  Successful people are successful, by and large, because they are frequently "right" about things.  We are indoctrinated into this thinking as children because from the age of 6 to 22, our value is assigned by grades.  Without a conscious thought we take this heuristic into the world and our goal is to be smart and right because that is what we believe will make us successful.  

As we progress in our career, we seek to become smarter so we can become right more often. Once we are right at the right time, we get promoted to manage others (not lead them) and proceed to establish our "realm of rightness".  We are in charge because we have all of the answers. So naturally we evolve into the lead problem solver for our team and we want all decisions to run through us because, after all, we are the smartest person on the team.  Anyone see where this is headed yet?

The world we live and work in is far to volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (V.U.C.A) to assume we actually "know" anything.  We must possess intellectual humility if we have any chance at adding value to our lives as well as the lives of others.  

Don't assume you know it all it all or even that you know part of it.  Focus on asking great questions...even if you think you know the answers because you might just learn something.  In fact, ask "why" and "what" questions and let others worry about the "who" and "how". Challenge what others think they know as well.  Be curious for the sake of curiosity. Don't assume.  Give others a chance to be smart and right.  Focus on getting it right and not being right.  Don't worry about whose idea it is or who gets the credit.  Release yourself from the need (or compulsion) to have the answer and allow others room to think for themselves.

I don't always have the answers but when I do, they are usually wrong (and I am completely fine with that).  Stay stupid my friend!



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