The value of ignorance
Drucker on ignorance and questions.
Asked the secret of his success in these endeavors by a student, Drucker responded, “There is no secret. You just need to ask the right questions.”
Unexpectedly, one of my classmates raised his arm and exploded with three questions in rapid succession. “How do you know the right questions to ask? Aren’t your questions based on your knowledge in the industries in which you consult? How did you have the knowledge and expertise to do this when you were first starting out with no experience?”
“I never ask these questions or approach these assignments based on my knowledge and experience in these industries,” answered Drucker. “It is exactly the opposite. I do not use my knowledge and experience at all. I bring my ignorance to the situation. Ignorance is the most important component for helping others to solve any problem in any industry.”
Hands shot up around the room, but Drucker waved them off. “Ignorance is not such a bad thing if one knows how to use it,” he continued, “and all managers must learn how to do this. You must frequently approach problems with your ignorance; not what you think you know from past experience, because not infrequently, what you think you know is wrong.”