The Power of “I Don’t Know”

businesswoman with question marksThere are three little words that are often hidden away – afraid to be exposed to the light of day. They’re easy to say, hard to admit, and immensely powerful. These potentially magical words are quite simply – “I don’t know”.

When we use them it can start a chain reaction that can propel us forward.

1. It opens our mind to learning something new.
2. It creates a possibility, and a curiousity to explore unknown territory. Like Star Trek – it can take us places where we’ve never gone before.
3. It provides an opportunity for others to contribute and share their own value, expertise, knowledge and resources. It breaks down walls and silos, and facilitates collaboration and co-creation, to arrive at a destination we could never have imagined on our own.
4. It releases us from a delusion that we’re in control, or have things under control – so we can actually start to get real about the fact that life just isn’t that predictable, and that there’s very little we actually know for sure. Even if we did know the answer yesterday, that answer may have become obsolete overnight as we slept comfortably in our beds.
5. We start to explore and challenge assumptions and beliefs – to actively test them, as opposed to jumping in like a bull at a gate, or unnecessarily writing off an opportunity.
6. The honesty and vulnerability that comes with saying these words contributes to building trust, and deeper connections.

So, given the power within these words – why are they rarely even whispered?

More often than not it’s because we feel we have something to prove, to ourself or others. Maybe we have the status of “expert” and feel we need to have the answer to retain that status. Perhaps it’s because we’re protecting our ego, don’t want to look dumb, and we feel that we must know or at least pretend to know, to justify our position. Hey, we’re all human.
The truth is, in this day and age, knowledge is not as powerful as it once was. It’s almost a commodity. It’s incredible what we can Google, or who we can connect with anywhere in the world in an instant who may know more than us on any given topic, in any given moment. What’s more valuable now is the power to create, connect, to question, to not only find solutions – but find the problems worth solving.
If you’re not saying “I don’t know” at least once or twice a week, there’s a reasonably high chance that you’re either taking yourself far too seriously; or simply not stretching the limits for yourself, your team, or your business.
Here are a couple of tips though…
1. Don’t over use them, (you’ll lose all credibility), and
2. When you do use these three little words – follow them up with, “but we’ll find out”, or “what if”.

Go on, give it a go – it’s OK, it’s even empowering to admit – “I don’t know”.

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