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Building “Ignorant” Teams

Building “Ignorant” Teams

A few weeks ago we, wrote about Vision and how a Visioning exercise might work. I was working with a client last week and we were discussing the similarities between Visioning and Brainstorming. One of the most important disciplines of either Visioning or Brainstorming is delaying the “testing assumptions” stage where you take the ideas generated and “test” them to see if they are viable. Strictly delaying this stage allows for free thinking, unencumbered by the back-and-forth process of coming up with an idea, testing it, and moving to the next idea. This back-and-forth process stifles creativity and short circuits innovation.

Bring someone who will ask the basic questions.

Whether Visioning or Brainstorming, the goal is to generate new ideas and discover new possibilities. When putting your Visioning/Brainstorming team together I would recommend that you include at least one individual that is totally unfamiliar with the foundational subject, whether it be process or technology. This “ignorant” (uninformed) individual will not be bringing any preconceived notions of what will and won’t work, or what you can or cannot do, and that will require a thorough examination or detailed steps for clarification.

When we are working with processes we are sometimes so familiar with the process that we skip over critical steps or don’t recognize the need for specific steps, because we already know what to do next. We fail to realize that the layman or end-user is not familiar, and they don’t automatically know the next step. They don’t already know the whats and whys that might seem logical to you.

Have you ever tried to use a “technical guide” for a computer application? For most that I have used, if I could understand what they are saying, I wouldn’t have needed the manual in the first place. Many of these manuals are written by individuals that are so familiar with the application, or applications in general, that they don’t realize that the end-user doesn’t have their basic foundational knowledge to work with.

The Curse of Knowledge

Chip and Dan Heath, in their great book “Made to Stick” refer to the Curse of Knowledge.

“And that brings us to the villain of our book: The Curse of Knowledge. Lots of research in economics and psychology shows that when we know something, it becomes hard for us to imagine not knowing it. As a result, we become lousy communicators. Think of a lawyer who can’t give you a straight, comprehensible answer to a legal question. His vast knowledge and experience renders him unable to fathom how little you know. So when he talks to you, he talks in abstractions that you can’t follow. And we’re all like the lawyer in our own domain of expertise. Here’s the great cruelty of the Curse of Knowledge: The better we get at generating great ideas—new insights and novel solutions—in our field of expertise, the more unnatural it becomes for us to communicate those ideas clearly. That’s why knowledge is a curse. But notice we said unnatural, not impossible. Experts just need to devote a little time to applying the basic principles of stickiness.”

It’s a terrific book, and “The Curse of Knowledge” is a critical component of idea and process generation. Read the book. Apply it. Include someone that is “ignorant” in your discovery process. I bet you come up with a new idea or a better process. You may all be smarter for the effort.


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