Blog | Apr 1, 2011 | 0 Comments

[stay stupid]

[ask, learn, experiment, and then know]

I read a blog last year entitled “Stay Stupid” and it stopped me in my tracks. Because someone from the largest marketing agency in the world told a audience of savvy advertisers that it’s actually smarter not to know everything.

It’s not every day that successful people tell you it’s OK to be humble.

Here’s the part of the blog post on Social Times that grabbed me:

Opening with, “If anyone tells you they can see any trends in the coming year, they are lying,” Euro RSCG Worldwide‘s Fernanda Romano wowed and inspired the participants with a closing session on where hints of the future and may be found and her sources for creative inspiration. “Stay stupid,” she advised. “Don’t assume you know.”

This is especially rare in the world of social media, where everyone is scrambling to become an “expert” before the field gets too crowded. (Of course, it’s already too late.) But I’ve been down that route before, and it just leads to burn out.

Ever have a job where you couldn’t afford to be “stupid”?

I once worked in a company where we always had to be smarter, faster, and better than everyone else—including our clients and even ourselves in the previous week. Push the envelope, seek continuous improvement, move the damn cheese…every day, we were expected to outrun our comfort zone.  It was hard to define success and set goals. It was hard to measure performance. Lots of people, including me, gave up and moved on.

The interesting parallel here is that we were working in the technology industry in the 80s and 90s. New products and services were emerging at lightning speed, generating profound changes in how we lived and worked. We were alternately enthralled and exhausted, often in the same day.

Social media/web 2.0/web 3.0 enthusiasts: does this sound familiar?

When is it OK to plead ignorance?

Since that time, my thoughts have constantly returned to the subject of when it’s OK in a business context to admit you don’t know stuff. I’m concerned with figuring out how to reveal that you don’t know all the answers, but you can find them out, and somehow make this reassuring to clients or colleagues in today’s “know it all,” instant-gratification business culture.

I wish we would admit that we are all learning, all the time.

Learners are the people who question today’s ideas, who experiment, make discoveries, start new trends, and change things. Experts are people who embrace these changes and put them into practice in the most efficient and effective ways. There is a place for both, but I personally think we need more of the former than the latter.

When it comes to business writing, I am an expert. When it comes to social media, I am an explorer. This is my official title in Klout, the “standard” for measuring influence on the web.

Claire Wagner is an explorer. You actively engage in the social web, constantly trying out new ways to interact and network. You’re exploring the ecosystem and making it work for you. Your level of activity and engagement shows that you “get it”, we predict you’ll be moving up.

(I can’t resist mentioning that they are still exploring basic punctuation.)

What do you think? Are there times in your professional life when it’s better not to know?

Photo credit: This wonderful piece of art was created by Vicci. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
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Author: Claire Wagner

I'm a seasoned freelance writer/editor and an enthusiastic community manager. I'm passionate about developing and sharing good content.

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