I want to introduce you to three simple words that will enable you to gain an incredible amount of knowledge about any subject. Yes, they are guaranteed to make you smarter. The more often you say them, the more you will learn. Although they are easy to say, most leaders have a very hard time saying them. These three words form a sentence that you should use every day. They are, “I don’t know.”
Addressing the uneasiness most people feel daily when they are confronted with facts and data, Richard Wurman wrote a groundbreaking book in 1989 entitled Information Anxiety. His book teaches readers how to learn what they want to learn from a variety of sources. Wurman’s findings are based on his foundational principle of learning, which states, “We should use our ignorance as an inspiration to learn instead of and embarrassment to conceal.”
What a revolutionary concept! When someone asks you if you know something about a particular subject and you don’t have any knowledge, you simply say, “I don’t know.” Follow up your response with, “What can you tell me?” You will be amazed at how much information others will give you. It’s like creating a knowledge vacuum that others want to fill.
However, if you appear that you know everything there is to know when asked about a certain subject, two things will most likely occur. First, others will realize that you really don’t know as much as you think you know and your credibility will be diminished. Second, others will simply stop giving you information. When a bucket is full of water, no one wants to add more water to the container. Some people call this “being full of yourself.” Once others stop giving you information, your acquisition of knowledge will quickly cease.
By the way, who is Richard Wurman? Does he really understand how to acquire knowledge and information? Perhaps you’ve never heard of Mr. Wurman. However, you may have heard about his brainchild, TED Talks, a web-based collection of over 2,400 inspirational and informational 20-minute video presentations delivered by noted experts in a variety of fields. Take a minute and visit this unique and free repository of knowledge and simply say, “I don’t know.” You be amazed at what you can learn when you admit to others what you don’t know!