When ignorance is power

Jul 30, 2019 |Posted by Jared Simmons | Coaching

As a coach, I am at my best supporting individuals and teams when I am aware of my ignorance. In fact, I add the most value when I leverage that ignorance. Because when I don’t know, I ask better questions. And by better, I mean simpler questions that connect more directly to the primary objective.

Think about the last time you were in a situation where you felt knowledge poor. Maybe you were in a foreign country and didn’t speak the language; maybe you were out with friends and didn’t know what the plan was for the evening; or maybe you received a diagnosis from a doctor that you had never heard of. What kinds of questions did you ask?

Where are we going?

What does that mean?

What is that?

Why are we here?

Is this necessary?

Contrast that with situations where we have relevant knowledge–or what we believe to be relevant knowledge. What kinds of questions do you ask then?

Are we going to take Collier Rd. or Northside Dr. to get there?

Are you talking about pine trees?

Which version of this document will we be using?

Is the next step surgery or a cast?

Knowledge-based questions tend to have assumptions in them. And when assumptions are built into your questions, you cut yourself off from possibilities that you’ll never have an opportunity to explore.

The bottom line is this: the more knowledge you put into your question, the less knowledge you’re likely to get out of it.

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Jared Simmons

Jared is the founder of Outlast Consulting LLC, a consulting firm that helps individuals and organizations with strategy, process improvement, and professional development. He is an engineer by training with experience in market research, product development, innovation, management consulting, and strategic planning at P&G, McKinsey, and Coca-Cola.


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