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I wonder if, rather than ignorance, it's a lack of arrogance that helps approach problems in a fresh way. Assuming you have all the answers, have seen it all before, and can solve anything, closes the mind to solutions. Put the other way, being able to be vulnerable, being secure in your abilities but willing to show you don't know everything, is more likely to result in new ways of looking at things.

The difficulty is that in some professions, and in our culture in general, 'not knowing' is seen as weak, even shameful.


Two of the frequently mentioned concepts mentioned in Julia Cameron's "The Artists Way," a well known creativity book, are the Inner Child and the Inner Critic.

If you are trying to be creative, you need to encourage the Inner Child and keep the Inner Critic muzzled. The Inner Child is the part that comes up with the innovative ideas.

Adam Hartung

Great blog entry. People and organizations are regularly locked-in to ways of thinking. These approaches serve them very well at one stage of the lifecycle, but becoming limiting as markets (and technologies) evolve. Work processes, metrics and culture become designed around the original ways things were done - and then it becomes very difficult to do something new.

It takes more than just people who have a fresh look at an old problem to implement change. It takes an approach that addresses the lock-ins, and special teams with permission and resources to operate outside the old bounds. Developing the idea often takes much more effort than merely having it, and unless you have teams allowed and resourced to work in white space forward development will not progress.

A blog dedicated to these issues, and overcoming them to grow is There's also a blog that addresses this topic at

Jessica Reeves

I can see how this is so applicable to my field (education) and I know that it is true. I was able to rethink my own curriculum fresh out of school...and no one stopped me. I just did what I thought would work, not knowing any of the rules of curriculum, and somehow it did work; very well in fact.

Thanks for the reminder=)

John I. Todor, Ph.D.

The concept you discuss applies to the type of brain trust people interact with in their social-biz networks. Seek diversity and seek and bounce ideas off your network. Not just for their perspective but to enhance your own.


Love this concept, Bob. And I think I agree. But I'm curious about how you reconcile the value of ignorance--philosophically, at least--with evidence-based management?

They're not mutually exclusive ideas. But on the other hand, the connection doesn't seem common-sensical, either. Is it merely a timing issue (i.e. leveraging ignorance in the early stages and evidence in the latter stages)?

Rick Ross

Thank you for writing about this important, but underutilized idea.

The history of innovation and invention is replete with examples that support the efficacy of your suggestions for harnessing innovation. Anesthesia was first used as a sideshow attraction until a doctor realized it's medical potential.

For a more recent example see my post: Innovation - One Key Catalyst

Gina Carr

As a business owner, I have found that my best ideas come from outside my industry. When I owned a real estate company, I implemented ideas from Walt Disney, the Ritz Carlton, and even Domino's Pizza to build a business that was quite different - in my opinion better - than others.

I love the Invisalign example. I think if the ortho-experts had been asked if this would work, they would have said NO.

Thanks for continuing to spur us all to think more creatively.

Andrew Grimes

Madame Curie's research comes to mind, but then again, everyone was ignorant at the time.

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