Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Strength of My Ignorance

As I re-read The Dawn of System Leadership (published last year in the Stanford Social Innovation Review), I am reflecting on the impacts genuine system leaders might have on organizations regardless of personality or style. Specifically, I am zeroed in on this sentence:
Indeed, one of their greatest contributions can come from the strength of their ignorance, which gives them permission to ask obvious questions and to embody an openness and commitment to their own ongoing learning and growth that eventually infuse larger change efforts.
This intrigues me, because I'm not sure I ever viewed ignorance as a strength in quite this way. Don't get me wrong -- I am confident there are a lot of things I am ignorant about! It's just that I have not always been willing to show it in some settings.

Now I am thinking differently. If we are open and committed to our learning and growth, without regard to how we might be judged for asking what others deem as "obvious questions," how might it fuel and propel larger change efforts? Certainly, we tell our students that there are no "stupid" questions, because we want to promote their learning and growth. So why would we have a different standard for ourselves?

With this "learning by doing" approach, I believe we can create a culture that frees others to do the same. Indeed, as the Stanford article suggests, "situations previously suffering from polarization and inertia become more open, and what were previously seen as intractable problems become perceived as opportunities for innovation." Recognizing the strength of our ignorance allows us to become active change agents.

Join the conversation...
How might you be a change agent by activating the strength of your ignorance?

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