How Being an Idiot Will Make You Smarter

I’ll bet you’re afraid of being an idiot. Most people are. At some point you’ve probably heard someone say something like this: “The new manager is clueless. She didn’t even know what a widget transducer was!” Wouldn’t you hate to be in that manager’s shoes in that moment?

Well, a new manager who pretends to know all about widget transducers IS an idiot. But a new manger who asks questions about widget transducers is a wise manager, despite whatever water cooler gossip may be overheard.

As a consultant, I sometimes find myself in the role of mentor/advisor. In just such a role with a client recently, I offered feedback on meeting facilitation skills.

“I feel like such an idiot,” she confessed.

“Well good.” I told her to embrace being an idiot, and I’m giving you the same advice.

As an idiot, we ask more questions. As an idiot we strive to learn more and our questions become more targeted. As an idiot, we let subject matter experts know that we don’t come from their world. And as an idiot, subject matter experts recognize that you respect their expertise and they respect you for recognizing that.

So don’t be afraid to be an idiot. We learn more when we’re aware of the fact that we lack information. Ask questions so you can grow, and don’t worry about what they’re saying around the water cooler. Someday those people will be lost when it comes to the Widget Transducer 3000 because they were afraid to sound like an idiot when the new technology was implemented.


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